Interview with Michael Mayr, Global Service Manager for Hitachi Data Systems
Please describe your role at the Zero Outage Industry Standard Association:
I’m a member of the board of Directors. And together with Klaus Reile, as senior support account manager from NetApp, I lead the People Workstream. My existing work on T-Systems internal Zero Outage programme on behalf of Hitachi Data Systems’ (HDS) has enabled me to be part of the association. Indeed HDS has received the internal Zero Outage Award from T-Systems on two occasions, most recently at CeBIT 2016.
I find the association’s work exciting, because Zero Outage is not at all about replacing any existing standards. The aim is instead to pool and define all existing standards at all levels of IT value creation in order to achieve outage-free IT.
While the biggest risk in IT is posed by people, definitions are often neglected, not only in terms of technical qualification, but primarily in terms of soft skills (interpersonal competency and methodical competency)
What exactly goes on in the People Workstream?
In the People Workstream, we try to create standards for employees to ensure they are suitable to work in a Zero Outage environment. We define both hard skills and soft skills, because many IT errors are caused by a lack of social skills.
I find it a very exciting area, as I have spent a large part of my career in leadership-management.
We’ve heard that 80% of errors in IT are caused by humans. Can you give any examples?
There are many different types of errors: for example, sloppiness in performing set tasks, or a lack of customer focus, engagement or sense of urgency. But errors are also caused by unmotivated staff, or even criminal acts whereby the employee actively seeks to sabotage the company, or simply carelessness in dealing with security guidelines.
The manager plays a particularly important role when it comes to the human factor. That’s why we also try to describe good management practices required in a Zero Outage organisation. In the workstream, we already have a basic framework we want to use to build on our recommendations.
Some things are still being discussed, but we want to release the next update of the guidelines in April. We’ve already gone in-depth into the subject, but want to explore the content even further over the next few months.
Do differences in work culture at the member companies play a part?
It’s really incredible. We define many words differently, but everyone understands the basic idea the same way because the structure is set by organisations and people. How these are labelled is irrelevant – it’s about us agreeing on standards based on a Zero Outage environment and defining these.
These guidelines can then also be applied to normal IT. We have a great, motivated team in the People Workstream with Netapp, HPE, Suse, Juniper, Dell, SAP and T-Systems.
How does HDS benefit from this programme?
The Zero Outage Industry Standard Association takes the same line as we want to develop. Permanently available IT systems are already part of our portfolio and are becoming increasingly relevant in relation to the Internet of Things (IoT).
So it makes sense for us to focus on Zero Outage as it increases our visibility in the market. We additionally benefit by working with other IT companies. Every company has had its own experiences, and if everyone shares these stories, we can really benefit from one another. It’s the only way.
The fact that the human factor is gaining importance in IT is of particular significance to me personally. Every good IT environment is there to provide quality, and it all hinges on your employees. That’s why it’s extremely important that employee conduct is transparent, standardised and measurable.
Have there been any changes in how employees are trained in recent years?
There have definitely been some improvements in staff training in recent years, but when it comes to standardising everything and making it all comparable, we’re still only in the very early stages.
Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) will play a big role in the future. How will this be influenced by the human factor?
The rise in automation is particularly showing that in future, people will be performing tasks that involve important decisions. These are top-level tasks that make the human factor even more important, as humans will have to make decisions which have a greater impact. So transparent training is absolutely essential.
Michael Mayr has an experience of 29 years within the IT industry. He worked in various service related management roles. At HDS he is responsible for the service quality provided to T-Systems.