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Server Consolidation Project Management

As a project manager for a server consolidation project, what can you do to make sure that your project stays on schedule? How do you deal with AIX gurus who act like divas? How does project management methodology work in the context of server consolidation?


Usually when we consider the effort that’s involved in a typical server consolidation project, we look at all the “cool” stuff, such as architecting the new System p server, implementing virtualization on the LPARs and uncapping partitions. Rarely do we even consider the task of project management. Sometimes, a project manager (PM) will only be brought into a project when the project has come to a standstill and people have run out of ideas on how to right the ship.

What are some of the challenges that an infrastructure PM has in a server consolidation project? Let’s start with some of the most difficult of issues—relationship problems. Oftentimes, the technical team will flat out not listen to the suggestions of the PM, regardless of their background. They feel that as the technical implementers, that they’ll configure the systems the way they see fit and worse yet, on their timeframe. As a PM, what can you do to make sure that your project stays on schedule? How do you deal with AIX gurus who act like divas? How does project management methodology work in the context of server consolidation?

Technical Prowess

Don’t think that your technical capability, or certifications—in either (or both) System p or project management will compel the technical team to listen to you, even if none of them are trained on the AIX OS. If the project organization itself is a weak matrix, or worse yet, a functional project organization, your capabilities as either a PM or AIX expert may matter little. If you work for the functional manager, you may have as little clout with people as the person running cable. If you work for the Project Management Office (PMO), more than likely you’ll be considered as an outsider intruding on the domain of the UNIX team. Worse yet, if you’re a consultant, you’ll be viewed as an outsider and possibly someone that’s looking to strip away people’s jobs.

Think about it. If the server consolidation goes well, and you consolidated 100 boxes into five, do you really need seven systems administrators to manage that server farm? You need to understand all the dynamics going into this project; not everyone will be your ally no matter how competent or nice you are. This is why project management isn’t for everyone—a difficult project can break even the strongest of leaders.

Emotional IQ

An effective PM knows to never take anything personally. To succeed in a server consolidation project, emotional IQ can be just as important as your technical capability. Emotional IQ includes self-management (knowing when to take a step back rather than confront), social awareness (being a good listener and knowing how to empathize without being condescending) and relationship management (techniques to help build effective relationships). Hardcore project management skills and being able to recite all the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) process groups may help you gain your Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, but it’ll help you little when the going gets tough.

To be an effective PM, you’ll need to harness your emotions and use your soft skills and presence to help lead the way. This is because fundamentally, any project is more about relationships than anything else. The road map to success is to build effective relationships with people at all levels of the organizations, including project sponsors, senior stakeholders, functional managers, applications managers and architects and down to the UNIX administrators. Building relationships with technical staff members, who may in fact know less than you do technically about the architecture, is critical. Remember—your role here isn’t to architect the system, but to lead the project.


Ken Milberg, CATE, PMP, is a diverse IT Professional with 20+ years of experience. He is a Power Systems Champion. Ken is a technology writer and site expert for techtarget and has also been a frequent contributor of content for IBM developerWorks. Ken has also been a freelance writer for IBM Systems Magazine and is a former technical editor. He can be reached at

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