RICK A RICE CONSULTING
Technical and Marketing Communications for the IT, Software, IT-Security, Change Management, AEC, and Media Sectors
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RAR Consulting has experience with a range of Information Technology projects, including:
All of these projects have involved systems architectures that are some permutation of the graphic provided below, which endeavors to illustrate the layers of technology and services provided at different levels in modern operations environments. Essentially these consist of numerous applications and databases being coordinated through front-end Web-based access and complex systems of enterprise services, each served by dedicated servers and robust network infrastructures.
RAR Consulting's expertise is in providing the "soft services" required to work with technical professionals, subject matter experts and stakeholders to identify business objectives, operational and functional requirements.
The primary process used by California state agencies, and by IT design professionals generally, is the "feasibility study". This refers to a systematic approach to developing the vision for each IT project and determining the best approach to meet IT challenges in terms of system design and architecture, risk mitigation and return on investment.
Below is an overview of the steps RAR Consulting typically uses in the feasibility study process.
The key to effectively addressing the needs and requirements of client organizations is commitment to understanding their work and their long-range objectives. This is best done by understanding principle stakeholders and their issues so that engagements can be customized to meet the unique requirements of each.
Systems typically impact wide varieties of stakeholders throughout multiple levels of organizations and managing developments successfully is often a function of identifying and charting a course toward shared aspirations.
Data management systems, by the nature of their typical impacts on the operations within organizations, are implemented along with various levels of change management.
One process that is used across many business sectors, when significant capital investments are under consideration, is the FSR. Rick has worked with many public- and private-sector clients to develop these documents that assess alternatives for meeting systems needs, weigh their likely return on investment, identify and mitigate risks, and provide the foundation document for execution of a properly considered project management plan.
Business Case: In developing feasibility studies and documents related to the development of new products, systems and processes, Rick works with subject matter experts (SME) at all levels of organizations to develop concise documentation describing:
Baseline: Feasibility studies require definitions and data points, which are critical to analyzing the efficiency of current processes and technologies so that alternative solutions may be critically reviewed against established metrics. Rick interviews SME, system operators and technical staff, reviews existing documentation and technical resources, and observes operations to document “current state” activities and technologies.
Functional Requirements: Functional requirements are defined in detail, with each step along the way of system operations documented in terms of data inputs and outputs, linkages to other systems and functions, data characteristics, equipment requirements, security, database, operator interface, standards, and person-year workload requirements. Rick develops a detailed map of what the solution must do to be considered successful, linking functional requirements to operational objectives.
Technical Environment: Critical to the development of the “current/future state” roadmap for system development is inventory of the existing technological environment. Rick works with IT leaders to create a complete listing of existing technical resources, including any limitations existing equipment may represent to development of alternative solutions.
The overview of the technical environment may include design charrette opportunities wherein qualified specialists in their respective fields meet to discuss best practices that may be applied to the development of the project solution.
Proposed Solution: The point of the data gathering and design exercises is to develop a range of plausible solutions, complete with accurate assessments of the advantages and disadvantages of each. Rick manages vendor Request for Information and works with the appropriate SME and stakeholder parties to consider alternatives, typically to include “doing nothing” along with as many as six alternatives representing stepped levels of perceived return on investment. Through this exercise, stakeholders discuss findings and a “preferred” solution typically surfaces.
Project Management: Rick often assists client groups with developing their project management processes, and an important first step is documenting the proposed process. His experience is with the industry-standard Project Management Institute (PMI) processes for effective management of schedule, cost control, quality assurance, and communications processes.
Risk Management: The PMI approach to project management places emphasis on identifying possible risks to project cost, schedule and quality, as well as worker safety. These are typically weighted in terms of likeliness of occurrence and potential for impact. For each risk identified, mitigation strategies are developed and supported by contingency plans. Potential single-point-of-failure scenarios and plausible threats to the project’s critical path are reviewed and solutions are identified. Here again, Rick has extensive experience working with SME to develop this important aspect of systems development.
Economic Assessment: Finally, before developing a summary that includes all of the sections detailed above, Rick does a complete breakdown of developmental and operational expenses, from project startup to final commissioning and handover of the new system.
DATA CENTER DESIGN
One area in which RAR Consulting provides special expertise is in the development of designs for critical facility data centers. We are currently working with Big Four consulting firm Ernst & Young on the development of a $120 million design-build data center project in California.
RAR Consulting is particularly well positioned to assist with data center scoping and design processes, typically done through design charrettes and other discovery processes as well as interviews with SME. Our dual-lane practice providing Architecture Engineering & Construction and Information Technology services finds a perfect outlet in the development of complex data centers. We speak the language of design and construction professionals, including architects, electrical-mechanical-civil-structural engineers, and we understand their roles and requirements. These knowledge sets are critical in a critical facility data center, when design specifications include exceptional standards such as bullet-proof glass, special reinforcement against forced entry, and special fortification against a variety of ground transportation and airplane crash scenarios.
Data centers, when well conceived, are extraordinary examples of integrated design, with multiple systems working in perfect synchronicity to provide the power, cooling and air handling, and data transmission required of these operations centers. Tier III designs, by TIA-942 standards, provide redundancy and backup of services and data, as well as backup generators to ensure that operations may continue even in the event of power outage. Network Operations Centers (NOCs) are designed to provide facility operators with the real-time readings and reports that are required to ensure consistent, reliable operations, to manage planned off-line maintenance, and respond to emergency situations.
Critical facility data centers also require high level security, and all aspects of access and control are built into the design, from the perimeter of the site in to the core of the data center. Communications systems are in place, lighting and signage, and emergency evacuation procedures are well established.
The graphic below is provided as a conceptual overview of the systems involved in an integrated data center design.
Examples of RAR Consulting Projects Performed Using the Process Outlined Above
1. Achieve an initial understanding of broad project goals and objectives
2. Achieve an understanding of how operational objectives support broader organizational goals
3. Identify key stakeholders and work to understand the responsibilities and objectives of each
4. Present alternatives for detailed investigations into the functional requirements of the planned project
5. Capture mined data in an organized manner to create a context for the process of identifying alternative solutions
6. Weigh alternative solutions by plausible risk versus ROI
Skill Sets and Services:
§ Development of high quality technical documentation for digital and print distribution
§ Interviews with Stakeholders and Subject Matter Experts
§ Observation and research into processes and operations
§ Review of the current state technical environments and future state requirements
§ Identification of Functional Requirements
§ Design charrettes to identify best practices and preferred alternatives
§ Review of relevant technical literature and existing documentation
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