Posts Tagged 'Office'

November 19, 2010

What Does it Cost (Part 2)

Your People and How They Relate to Your Infrastructure

If you read my previous blog, “What Does it Cost (Part 1) - The Overview,” you may be interested to delve deeper into the conversation and math behind how all of this adds up. Essentially asking yourself “is it better to build infrastructure yourself?” is a good thing and you will inevitably try to ask yourself what does it cost to do so versus looking into “what would it cost to have SoftLayer do this for me since this is what their core competencies reside in?”.

Remember that one of the big lessons we can learn and that I re-learned at the conferences I attended is that your people are your biggest assets. This lesson is showcased and repeated several times and for good purpose, since this seems to be a time tested rule. While your people are a biggest assets they can also easily be one of your biggest costs especially if they are not managed properly. Every business should have a growth model but one thing that can hold you back is the cost of growth (or your growing pains).

Think about the amount of people you need when you run everything inside and what that will wind up costing. If your business, network, and uptime are all mission critical you’ll also need to take into consideration the number of people needed to make sure a facility is 24*7. You will need someone to fix a drive that brakes and needs to be replaced at 3:42AM, won’t you? Take the number of people that you think you’ll need and now consider what would happen if you were to double in size in a single year (or you could use your own timeline in your head). Would you need double the people or possibly more when you consider the needs of managers to make sure everything was in line with your business strategy? What would the cost be that you would need to pay when considering more than just their salaries.

Think of the other things that do not jump out at you immediately like taxes, insurance, a 401K plan, office space, other liabilities, etc. Gary Kinman (VP of Accounting and Finance) estimates that the cost of each additional employee is about 15-20% more than just the cost of their salary without including things like office space. This is one of the biggest aspects often overlooked, because it not only takes new people you would need to hire, but how it can monopolize time and production you would get otherwise from people you already have on staff.

Now, if you remember from part one I mentioned how Opportunity Costs are some of the biggest costs in the differences between how SoftLayer can help you versus doing things yourself. If you reverse the previous scenario and say that after you’ve just doubled in size there is a bust in the economy which causes you to have to contract. For starters the easiest way to cut back on spending is in people, so you may have to lay people off and ultimately make you the bad guy. Now here is where ugly gets really gruesome.

If you talked yourself into how cheap it can be to buy and do everything yourself you are in a real tight spot because now you may not have the necessary people to run all of your infrastructure, or in an even worse case scenario you may not even need it. What this spells out is that you keep something that cannot be used even though you are paying for it, and you had to let people go just to keep the rest of the boat afloat. Didn’t we say that our people are our most important asset earlier? You can’t always know what kind of worker someone will be when you hire them or how things will work out, but you do want to put yourself in a position to keep the good ones that you trust to push your business forward around and happy.

All right, that is enough doom and gloom scenario. Let’s look at this subject from another angle. As you grow in size generally everything you have and everything you use will grow right along the company. We covered the fact that it will probably become more and more obvious that you’ll need more people to do the work for your business. Hiring systems administrators, DBAs, and development staff can all be good moves that would impact your business specifically; however, are you putting them in the best position for them to be successful? Have you ever seen that show “Undercover Boss”? It seems that in a lot of the episodes you would see that a CEO was not cut out for doing a lot of other jobs in the company and would have a much greater appreciation of everyone who did all of those jobs and how hard they work. Sometimes they would have comments about if they were really trying to get that job they wouldn’t last long. Keep that thought in mind when asking these same Sys-admins, DBAs, and development staff to do jobs that they do not specialize in.

Taking your people in positions where they may get a grade of an “A” or a “B+” and putting them into different positions where they may get a “C-“, “D”, or even an “F” will not likely be good for production levels, decrease levels of morale, and will also likely tank the investment value made in the employees themselves and/or the infrastructure you purchase.

Bottom line is that the way the world is evolving is to work smarter, lessen risk, and (in drawing back to part 1) get more out of having less. The best way to avoid unnecessary risk is to not overextend yourself in the first place, and to stay in a position of flexibility so that you can react and adapt to the market around you. This is what SoftLayer is built for; keeping you with the most options in order to increase your ability to innovate and execute without sacrificing any level of control and without costing large sums of upfront capitol.

I am guessing that about 9 times out of 10 if you take the time to sit down and do the math it all makes perfect sense.

-Doug

Categories: 
November 8, 2010

Innovate or Die

Softlayer moved into a new complex (complex sounds better than building) in July. Like everywhere else, the building has its quirks – all part of what help the place feel like home. Those quirks have extended to how we have named the conference rooms throughout the building.

Being relatively new to the place, I take a certain amount of delight in discovering how each room was named. For example, CBNO translates to Challenging But Not Overwhelming, which is a mantra SoftLayer has adopted; Muenster is not named for the cheese, but for the Germanfest in Muenster, Texas that Sam and the SoftLayer BBQ team attend each year; and Jeep has its name due to the wide variety of Jeeps that are found daily in the SoftLayer parking lot. However, I think the most appropriate name has to be Sharkbyte. The reason is simple – Softlayer is an obligate ram breather.

The room features a stuffed shark that is mounted on the wall. The fish in question is a Bull shark, it is 7 feet long and weighed 200 pounds before it was caught off the Florida coast following a momentous struggle with SoftLayer’s CSO, George.

The urban myth goes that all sharks have to keep moving in order to maintain a flow of water over their gills or they risk suffocation. In reality this is true for only about two dozen of the 400 identified shark species. The species include the Great White and the Mako Shark. These species are called obligate ram breathers.

Like the Great White, SoftLayer is an obligate ram breather. The difference is that SoftLayer needs to keep innovating to keep thriving. Without constant innovation, we lose our competitive edge and risk falling back into a pool of ‘me too’ players in the market. The true test of this theory comes when we are faced with extraordinarily challenging times. The work to merge SoftLayer and The Planet is a great example of this. Innovation keeps coming even though everyone has been spending significant time focusing on how to deliver a seamless customer experience from day one. In the past few months we have partnered with Nimsoft to deliver a unique network monitoring solution to the cloud; a new customer driven firmware update tool has been developed and launched; ‘smarter’ signup forms that will have multi server sign up forms (among other things) are available and we have given customers increased network transparency. At Softlayer we simply cannot stop.

CBNO.

-@quigleymar

August 27, 2008

Perspective

So…I was just promoted to a management position after serving SoftLayer’s customers as a CSA for 15 months. “Things look different from up here!” Moohahahaaa. Anyway, I find it to be extremely interesting to see how our support works from a new perspective. When you are in the trenches as a CSA, it is very hard to see the big picture as you are on the phone, working diligently on a ticket (or ten tickets), or completing a plethora of other tasks from the moment you arrive for your shift until an hour or so after your shift officially ends most days. You become so involved in the specific issues you are working and the customers with whom you are dealing, you are hard-pressed to step back and see the effect of your team’s efforts on the customers who were served during your shift. Honestly, some days you are simply glad to get to go home and rest your brain for a while. Other days, you leave with a great sense of satisfaction in the fact that you conquered several difficult issues and made a lot of customers, as well as their customers, very happy.

As a manager, you have the privilege of seeing the different talents, abilities, and areas of specialized knowledge of a team of great technicians come together to create an outstanding support department for our customers. As we support such a tremendously wide range of issues, it would be impossible for any one tech, or even two techs, to have all the answers. But, here at SoftLayer, the egos seem to be left at the door and there is a meeting of the minds and a cooperation among peers that may rival the acropolis (well, maybe not…different clothing anyway :P). But seriously, the techs do band together to find resolutions to difficult issues and therefore, a customer can rest assured that the issue is being dealt with by a consortium of scholars, if you will.

Before becoming a part of the management team, I frequently heard my co-workers talk about how nice it was to work in a place that was free from the drudgery of politics in which most work-places are buried. The management team has done a very good job of keeping it down to business and absent of drama and red tape. The opportunities to advance are many as I can attest. Among the CSA teams, there is a sense of purpose and camaraderie that foster the great support that our customer’s enjoy. Of course, it is not mount Olympus (speaking of drama) as no place is perfect, but if you stopped one of SoftLayer’s CSA’s on the street, I’m sure you would find someone who enjoys going to work and serving their customers. The excitement of a fast-growing company with many opportunities for hard-working technicians makes for a positive, success-driven, committed environment. SoftLayer just keeps getting better and better, both for the customers, and the employees.

-David

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