Case Study—Skanska’s Innovative Vision Required Special Talent to Deliver
Staffing up is part of ramping up
What makes for a brilliant business plan?
1. Start with a vision that recognizes point A and point B.
2. Recruit and hire a world-class team to figure out everything in between.
3. Done. Et Voila. Have a cigar.
Legendary basketball coach Dean Smith of the University of North Carolina defines coaches as either system or flexible coaches. System coaches endeavor to recruit specific types of role-playing talent in order to get maximum efficiency out of a fixed system. Flexible coaches change their system from year to year, adapting to the talents of the players.
In a different sport, Chuck Knox exemplified the system coach with his straight-ahead, old-school approach. Bill Walsh was the ultimate flexible coach. His West Coast offense revolutionized football. Necessity forced Walsh to implement a versatile, short and wide mid-range attack because his roster lacked a deep wide receiver or fast running back. Bill Walsh’s vision and innovation of talent utilization left a legacy of multiple Super Bowl winning understudies. Chuck Knox, while successful, never made it to the Super Bowl.
Could Jakob (Jake) Carnemark be mission critical’s version of Bill Walsh?
Jake is the thought leader and visionary behind Skanska USA’s Mission Critical Center of Excellence (COE), which is transcending the traditional interpretation of a infrastructure and construction contractor.
Worldwide, Skanska is known as a leader in construction and development, creating sustainable solutions for built environments like health care, education, transportation, and residential. Take, for example, the Skanska-IKEA new “whole home” design and delivery concept outside the U.S. BoKlok uses Skanska hardware and supply chain coupled with IKEA’s marketing and interior design twist. These affordable, modern homes are designed for rapid development and delivery to the masses in days, not months.
From Skanska’s macro perspective, as data mass builds globally, greater and ever increasing innovation will be required to fund, build, and deploy infrastructure in a manner that is harmonious with the capital, grid, water, and population ecosystems. Meeting these demands require an entirely different type of thinking and therefore, talent.
Jake’s vision is to control design, construction, and operations, effectively collapsing the supply chain to optimize and guarantee the outcome for the customer.
“An absence of preconceived notions spawns innovation. Bringing new talent and capital together with a primary focus on the customer experience allows us to leapfrog the slow evolutionary change of component parts and pieces. Customers ultimately care about three things—cost, risk, and agility. We can guarantee a certainty of outcome by aligning and collapsing the supply chain, making it feasible to reduce total cost of ownership while simultaneously reducing risk and providing an agile business platform.”
Jake turned to John Coster, Lee Kirby, and Terry Rennaker to bring this vision to life. These three, like many other senior leaders at Skanska, have a passion for solving problems. They have each been delivering their own uniquely innovative solutions in the mission-critical industry over the last decade. Jake’s vision and the organizational partner toolset he’s developed will challenge them to put complex puzzles together and deliver true TCO value.
John Coster is the connective tissue between the IT infrastructure and the COE’s data center intelligence platform (DCIP) which takes traditional DCIM and other tools and integrates them with financial management and risk assessment. Prior to joining Skanska, John led complex IT programs, critical operations, and risk management initiatives throughout the U.S., Europe, and Asia for Microsoft and Savvis. In his role leading the Data Center Strategies and Critical Environments Group for Microsoft’s global IT division, he formed Microsoft’s Business Continuity Management framework for IT to address increasing demands by investors, customers, and regulatory agencies.
Lee Kirby promotes the notion of “start with the end in mind” and the idea of planning for operations from the very beginning. Lee heads the COE’s Consulting Services Group, ensuring maximum returns and optimal performance for client’s data centers. Lee is the alpha and omega, the interface bookends on the customer experience, beginning with the design phase through construction while ensuring each customer’s operational readiness from an operator’s point of view. Before joining Skanska, Lee was a key contributor to Lee Technologies’ data center operations success prior to its acquisition by Schneider.
Terry Rennaker solves the puzzle of constructing better, faster, less expensive, and more reliable modular solutions. Terry is tasked with the Integrated Solutions Development initiative that is developing customized and integrated solutions that deliver “order of magnitude savings” by integrating the entire supply chain of ultra-efficient data centers for enterprise clients. Previously, Terry was the director of Mission Critical for CB Richard Ellis, responsible for the definition, design, and construction of a $700 million program, including two new Tier III+ data centers, over $100 million of work in existing facilities, and $600 million in new projects.
The three VPs chose Skanska, among a myriad of other options, because the company gave them the opportunity to impact where the industry was going
Coster noted that Jake “spends little time in retrospect. In the realm of a true entrepreneur, he continues to look ahead and we formulate solutions. In the classic form, storm, norm, perform stages of group development, we are norming and performing.”
Terry described the “continuing dynamic changes of greater efficiencies in IT performance, power and cooling, virtualizations, and a hyper-focus on PUE all contribute to moving the CIO from a cost container to an incredibly empowered business enabler with a strategic seat in the C-Suite. This transformation is the driver of what Skanska is. This is central to Jake’s vision and he went out and made some strategic hires to take advantage of that convergence.”
Smith’s offensive philosophy included utilizing personnel as effectively as possible, achieving results through unselfish effort on the part of every player, having the team thoroughly prepared, and varying the offense to prevent the competition from preparing too easily. Skanska recognized the significant market opportunity, and in a strange Sleepless in Seattle twist, the team now conducts their offensive strategy meetings in Skanska’s office in the Empire State Building.
Kirby joined for the unique opportunity to make an impact at an industry level with new methods and technologies that will dramatically increase reliability and decrease costs. When Lee realized he knew and respected the guys that Jake was hiring for 15+ years, he likened it to “being recruited to the NY Yankees. Just the chance to work and learn from the team Jake has put together is priceless.”
Borrowing a famous quote from Napoleon Hill, “What you can conceive, you can achieve,” Jake conceived of a business model that guarantees the data center’s performance. Point B is now in sight and with this type of talent on board, it is likely to arrive sooner than later. That is, until Jake pushes it out again once more.
Reprints of this articleare available by contacting Jill DeVries at email@example.com or at 248-244-1726.