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Employee Attitudes Toward Changing Storage Vendors

29 May 15
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Do you know of a company that has switched from one storage platform to another?  Perhaps you work for a company that has made this type of move.  There are many challenges involved in such a move.  Those challenges include, but are not limited to ensuring the new hardware will perform adequately (sizing it correctly), getting the data safely from the old storage systems to the new, and training staff and/or hiring new staff.  This post will cover another challenge that may surface when switching storage vendors — employee attitudes.

We humans are creatures of habit.  When a person establishes a certain routine, whether it’s a morning routine after waking, a certain route taken to work, or a daily routine while at work, those routines become part of the person’s “comfort zone”.  Therefore, when something is introduced that changes one of those routines, sometimes that change will cause discomfort to the person affected by the change.  In this way, the introduction of storage systems from a new vendor and elimination of the systems from an established vendor may cause angst among those that work directly with those systems.

In addition to being creatures of habit, humans often form strong opinions for or against entities they are directly or indirectly involved in.  For example, I worked at a client site where I met a guy that loved Alabama Crimson Tide football.  All was going well with this client until I brought up Auburn. Upon hearing the word “Auburn” his face flushed red with anger and his eyes narrowed in disgust as he relayed to me that, “Those Auburn fans are the worst around!”  He had strong opinions for Alabama and against Auburn.

The same type of devotion can occur with users of computer and storage equipment.  Back in the late 90s, I was a systems engineer.  I worked with Sun Microsystems’ hardware.  I loved Sun, and as a lover of Sun, naturally I hated Microsoft.  I did then, and to an extent, I still do…  That’s why I’m typing this post on a Mac.  Anyway, I digress.  Users of storage often develop a devotion to a particular storage vendor.  When the user’s company decides to supplant that user’s “love” (the existing storage platform) with some foreign (to the user) system, there can be strong feelings that result (much like the Alabama fan had when I mentioned Auburn).

These attitudes, although undesirable to management, are natural.  How can these natural human attitudes be overcome?  One possible method is by including those that work with the hardware in the decision making process.  How?  By allowing them to voice their opinions while decisions are being made.  This will give them a feeling that what they say is being heard and valued by management.  Take time to hear and answer their questions and concerns.  It will likely be necessary to exert energy to prevent the decision making process from getting bogged down, but that extra energy expenditure could pay off at the end of the process with appreciative employees and a successful implementation of the new storage systems.

While going through the decision making process, if at the end of the process management’s opinion differs from that of the employees, then a meeting with the employees to tell of the decision and the rationale behind it will be appreciated.  In the workplace, most everyone desires to be addressed as an adult.  Adult employees can handle and accept their opinion losing out to the opinion of their boss, if the boss demonstrates that he/she values the opinions of the employees, has listened to their opinions and truly considered them, then after thoughtful consideration decided to go in a different direction.

If these actions are taken by the decision makers, it will increase the chances that once the new vendor’s hardware hits the data center floor, the employees that work hands on with that equipment will be ready and willing to make that equipment an accepted part of their daily routine, a new part of their comfort zone, and the centerpiece of a successful project for the company they work for.