Premier 100 IT Leaders 2008

They're simplifying IT and showing the business how to innovate.

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"The whole thinking was that less is more. That means fewer applications to manage, fewer rules of engagement, fewer touch points for customers," Waghray says. "Billing systems are the keepers of all of the customer data and rules of engagement. To simplify the customer experience, you've got to simplify what you're servicing."

The business benefit associated with a single system serving millions of subscribers is "amazing," Waghray says. "You can roll out products and services much quicker. As you optimize consolidation, it makes fault tolerance and high availability easier, too. And it allows for easy and consistent customer experience," because regardless of how a customer contacts the company — via a cell phone, online or in person — the same back-end computer system services all requests, he says.

More Movies, Faster

At DreamWorks, streamlining IT to create a single virtual studio environment enables the company to roll out new movies faster than competitors.

"Before, we could release about two pictures every year or so," says Derek Chan, 36, head of digital operations at DreamWorks. "Now, we're doing a show in May, another in November and then [again the next] May. We're reaching a scale no one else has been able to do. When we ended up building these systems, it changed the landscape for us."

The multiyear IT overhaul included deploying new HP Halo telepresence suites for cross-site collaboration, increasing WAN bandwidth threefold and delivering new storage technology to mitigate latency between sites.

Chan's leadership abilities contributed significantly to the project's success. He served as one of two executive sponsors for the project and shepherded it from inception to requirements gathering to design and implementation.

"We met weekly with the team to discuss progress and review project details. It was our responsibility to prioritize projects and communicate with other executives and production teams," Chan says. The teams that handled the audiovisual equipment as well as the networking core and WAN capabilities were both part of the digital operations department.

Chan says he is also measuring the success of the project based on the ability to have any artist work on any show, the number and types of artists who work cross-site, the amount of cross-site computing that IT can support in terms of CPU cores, and the relative number of infrastructure support people to the number of overall users and films. "All of these metrics have shown significant improvements since the beginning of the project," Chan says.

The biggest challenge has been making all of the IT upgrades while active production continues. "It's sort of akin to changing the wheels on a car while the car is moving," says Chan. NEXT  

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