CNet Training’s CEO Andrew Stevens discusses how human risk is still one of the main causes of data centre downtime and the challenges associated with addressing and reducing people risk.
For many years now, the outage figures attributed to human error have remained static, costing companies thousands per minute. This lack of change proves that this significant issue is not being addressed.
However, it’s not just a lack of skills and experience that pose a threat to a data centre facility, even those who have worked in the industry for years and who you may think is the ‘perfect employee’ can put the organisation at risk. Understanding employee’s behaviour and their knowledge gaps are vital – how competent and confident are they at applying their knowledge on an on-going basis within mission-critical environments is the key to risk mitigation.
We all know that outages are costly for an organisation; it’s not just the financial impact, but also the detrimental effect it can have on the brand reputation, customer satisfaction and compliance. There are a few major organisations that have recently experienced the costly and brand reputation-damaging impact an outage can cause.
A recent study from LogicMonitor* shows how more than 51% of outages are avoidable, and 53% of those interviewed admitted that they are concerned that outages could be so severe that it could make the national headlines.
The industry needs to be sitting up and paying attention to these statistics and get better at spotting the knowledge gaps and weaknesses in their teams and then invest in their people to improve their confidence and competence and in turn work towards protecting against future downtime.
Many data centre professionals have naturally progressed into their roles as technology has evolved around them, and they have fallen into the data centre sector. This means that they most likely learnt on-the-job and some have adopted the approach of ‘it’s worked this way for years, so why do we need to change the way we are doing things?’
Data suggests that continuing to do the same things in the same way time-and-time again is risky, particularly within mission-critical environments. Liken it to passing your driving test, when you first pass you are tuned into the rules of the road and consciously aware of what is going on around you and you know the potential dangers.
Yet, after several years of driving, who actually refreshes themselves by re-reading the highway code? Who goes out of their way to understand the latest techniques that are being taught to the new drivers?
Have you ever driven somewhere and on arrival questioned how you got there in the first place because you were driving almost in autopilot mode. Most people are guilty of not refreshing their knowledge in this area. This scenario in a data centre facility could have dramatic and potentially costly consequences.
In psychology, there are four stages of competence, called the hierarchy of competence, where the learning model relates to the psychological states involved in the process of progressing from incompetence to competence in a skill.
Unconscious incompetent. This is the most dangerous or risky. This individual does not understand or know how to do something and does not necessarily recognise the deficit. They may deny the usefulness of the skill. The individual must recognise their own incompetence, and the value of the new skill, before moving on to the next stage. This usually applies to new staff who are unaware of what they don’t know. However, as an organisation, you usually know who they are and where they are so that it can be managed.
Conscious incompetence. Individuals realise that they don’t know. This is less risky, as these people will not carry out a task as they realise they do not know how to do it.
Conscious competence. These are good people. They are capable and know what they are capable of. An example being those that have recently passed their driving test.
Unconscious competent. The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it has become ‘second nature’ and can be performed easily and without thinking about it. As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task.
However, this hierarchy follows a cyclical process. It is a fact that when people perform the same role for a period of time, initially they are highly confident and highly competent (the conscious competent) but over time they sway into the competent unconscious zone as the role becomes easy for them as they have been doing it for a period of time.
Usually, these are people that have been in the role or function for a very long time, yet, due to the on-going automatic nature of their actions they could sway into the unconscious incompetence zone and pose a risk to the organisation.
Regularly assessing skills and competency is a vital tool to evaluate and understand the on-going skill set and knowledge of the teams. Professional training, education and development is a way to continue to enhance and develop teams and make sure that their skill set is maintained and also their knowledge is updated to keep up-to-date with latest industry trends and updates.
Naturally, education and development do involve investment, but this spend does need to be put into perspective. Millions are spent on data centre equipment, and on some that may never be used – yet the people who work in a data centre every day are not considered with the same importance.
It’s essential that organisations understand that investment in professional development is hugely positive and beneficial to the organisation and does provide a return on investment. A competent and confident team reduces and could mitigate business risk, it also increases productivity (employee contribution), helps with staff retention and loyalty as employees gain more satisfaction from their job.
Brand value is also enhanced (against the brand damage that occurs when there is an outage) and, with a reputation for on-going staff development, it can help to attract new talent directly to your organisation.
When considering options for education and training of teams, it’s essential to assess the outcomes and how that will genuinely benefit the learner and the organisation in the long and short-term. CNet is the only dedicated industry education provider in the world to award both qualifications and certifications.
A programme that awards industry-recognised qualifications and official certifications is much more valuable. Qualifications can be mapped across the world with clear and recognised equivalences, whilst certification ensures knowledge is kept up-to-date via a re-certification process every three years.
This essential education can be supplemented and enhanced further with additional specialist education, knowledge, skills, mentoring, competency and confidence interventions and other professional development activities to help progress individual careers throughout the sector.
Finally, think about the cost of just one minute of a data centre outage and how this money could be used to educate and develop people to reduce future outage risks significantly. With forward-thinking and development planning, the benefits far outweigh the potential risks.
CNet created The Global Digital Infrastructure Education Framework that offers individuals and organisations the opportunities to plan technical education programs to meet their exact requirements. See CNet Training’s website for full details on the Education Framework and programmes available. https://www.cnet-training.com/