We are all trying to reduce ‘risk’. But in a volatile (or dynamic, if you’re an optimist) industry, risk is an inherent part of business decision-making.

During the Management & Operations broadcast, we sat down with CBRE to discuss how they manage risk and make smart decisions for the well-being of their employees, and the future of their products.

Mike Buckingham, managing director of EMEA at CBRE delved into how automation could play an important role.

“People are always going to be key to running a data center, but human error is a massive part of risk. I know that people are now investing in game theory and HoloLens and a whole bunch of other stuff to manage that, and what automation will bring is a solution to the easier, repeatable tasks. Those will be the first to go.

“Then what we'll have is a space where there's a lot more data so that the people can make better decisions, and maybe we'll see something where we've got automation working in harmony with people so that they're working in a safer way. But ultimately, it's still always going to be about the people - even if they're just programming automation.”

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With people front and center in the data center, it is essential that they are also put first by the managing team.

Francisca Beloso Garcia is the head of people at CBRE and really champions employee well-being, and the value of diversity.

“It includes embedding the elements of diversity, equality, and inclusion. All of which should be a part of a business proposition, not only a ‘nice thing that HR happens to do’,” he says.

“It's everyone's responsibility. And that gets reflected in the way that we may be operating talent, acquisitions, and retention strategies as an organization.

“It's not a quick fix, because we're talking about changing our behavior, the way that we do things. So, we need to make sure that it's sustainable, we need to be patient. This is a journey, and this is not something that we are going to change one day to another.

“Another key important thing is not forgetting about overall well-being. A lot of you may have seen on the news about mental health and well-being, especially after the pandemic. We have been less mobile and have been working from home, and there is the element of losing the connection with the people we work with.”

The people problem is deeply connected to the product problem. With such massive demand and capacity, there is a desperate need for skilled workers to fulfil the necessary roles.

Barry Sullivan, global projects director at CBRE, sees this as a sector-wide issue.

“We're in a sector that is growing exponentially. From supply chain contractors to consultancy teams, project management teams, and they are all looking to bring in additional personnel to service that growth.

“Obviously, we can’t bring in personnel that have a proven track record in the DC environment because those people cannot be doing four jobs at a time. And due to the growth, it's bringing in an element of risk in relation to the delivery of that because we're bringing new people in, who do not have specific data center proven track records.”

And even then, once you have the highly-skilled staff you need, there is the issue of the supply chain.

“The supply chain challenges within the data center sector are significant at the moment,” says Sullivan. “With COVID restrictions, various supply chains, and the ongoing conflict in Eastern Europe; there are quite a lot of variables unknown in the supply chain. It's not a DC sector issue, it's a global issue, across all platforms, all sectors.

“In relation to procurement across all the different sectors within the CBRE portfolio, the pain has been felt significantly across our regions and our disciplines. Elements that you can use to counteract that risk in relation to the supply chain are obviously earning agent engagement and being transparent in relation to your profile and your scale - what you want over the course of a multiple-year duration and the geographies associated with them, holding inventory and paying upfront.”

In essence, the trick to managing risk is future-thinking. It is assessing the issues you will come across, and preemptively taking action.

Download the episode below to listen to the full discussion.