Of all the mission-critical IT events, none is more so than a government election. The day simply cannot be rescheduled, and there is zero margin for error. Furthermore, venues around the country are not available much in advance. Imagine having one day to roll out a massive office environment!
There is a lot we can learn from this kind of project to use in our everyday infrastructure roll-outs or short-term IT project.
Clayton Heldsinger is the Managing Director of Go Rentals. He has flawlessly rolled out two elections in a row with his team at short notice, and gives some valuable insight.
“It takes careful planning and experience in knowing what can go wrong in order to mitigate the risks,” says Heldsinger.
Whether you manage a project yourself or you outsource, here are some factors that Heldsinger advises you to consider:
- Consistency: Try to ensure consistency of hardware in a roll-out like this. It’s okay to have a few models, but too many different models make imaging and support more complex.
- Spare hardware is essential: If you won’t have time to troubleshoot, you need to be able to swap out.
- Imaging: You need to be able to blast images to all hardware before, and possibly during, an event. Clients make errors in their build and sometimes find out on-site.
- Rentals: You can rent hardware from a reputable rental company. It does not need to be new, as long as it meets the specifications and is of a good grade. The hardware must have sufficient volume and capacity. Make sure you do a site visit.
- Brand: Go with Tier 1 brands in a short-term project. There is a greater chance of compatibility, and they’re easier to support.
- Framework: This is the most essential piece of the puzzle. You need to be able to move the equipment around safely and securely, on time, and return it safely.
- Packing and packaging: Transporters will damage your goods if not correctly packaged. Hard drives and components can come loose. Ensure that you have packing material for returning the goods too, and a place to store these.
- Planning: Methodically plan every delivery, leaving sufficient time for delays. Create very detailed packing lists as things tend to turn up in the wrong places, and crew on-site need to know what they are unpacking.
- Insurance: Make sure all items are adequately insured, preferably not via couriers as they tend to avoid responsibility for any damages.
- Team effort: For a short-term project or event, ensure your team is committed and ready to put in the hours. Factor in plenty of overtime and some Red Bull, if necessary. Your team must be versatile and willing to assist wherever needed to meet the deadline. Without 100% commitment from your team, you will not deliver on time.
- Project management: Have a strong project planner, and simplified instructions for each task and stage.
- Planning: Every venue must be planned, with detailed schedules and diagrams. You cannot have senior engineers at every endpoint. The more preparation is done, the simpler and quicker the process will be on-site.
- Site visits: Visit each site beforehand to check power, connectivity and networks, access, storage and security.
- Temporary cabling: Ensure that all cables are secured with cable ties and duct-tape.
- Contingency planning: Anticipate what can go wrong, and make second plans (and third plans, if risk warrants). There are many risks, but here are a few to consider as part of the set-up:
- Hardware failure: Have spare hardware, tools and consumables on standby
- Logistics delays: Plan for this. Dispatch early. Set final deadlines.
- Theft / Hijacking: Electronic goods are in high demand. Split the deliveries. If a vehicle is hijacked with all equipment for a venue (yes, this has happened), you may not have that venue up in time.
- Staffing: People get sick, or delayed with transport. Ensure you have a backup plan.
- Data loss: Ensure that your data is secure, especially after use. This can be achieved through Hard Disk Sanitisation, encryption and other means.
“On projects like these, there are a lot of moving parts, and little time to deliver,” Heldsinger says. “Sometimes companies ask us to supply the entire project, or elements of it.”
Corporate and government projects throughout South Africa and in over 10 African countries have relied on Go Rentals’ experience and methodologies to roll out temporary IT infrastructure projects, large and small, since 2005.