Welcome to the first Count on IT column in 2008! We’re excited about changes within this column that you’ll see throughout the year. One of the biggest changes is the approach… you’ll notice a change from last month’s column, which was written by John Footen, a vice president with National TeleConsultants. John and I will alternate writing this column each month in an effort to give you wide-ranging insight into the world of IT.
First, a brief introduction would be appropriate. In my current position of director of IT for Media General Broadcast Group, I am responsible for the oversight and management of IT processes for Media General’s 23 network affiliated television stations.
I joined the publishing side of the Media General family 20 years ago in Tampa, Fla. I was an active player in Media General’s entry into the world of PC and server-based systems.
Ten years later, I joined the broadcast division with our initial three television stations and was informed a week later that we had just purchased another nine! My efforts and strengths have always focused on management and structure, and the opportunity to implement some of my ideas to develop a consistent structure was invaluable to me. Following relocation to our corporate headquarters in Richmond, Va., in 2001, we continued our efforts to utilize our skills to enhance our products—throughout our enterprise. Notice I didn’t say division… we must be efficient and creative and utilize our resources with a vision of the big picture always in mind!
The ability to embrace change is now mandatory in our business. Change is upon us, and we must be agile in the ability to adjust quickly and accurately. Within broadcasting, I frequently hear reference to how much IT and engineering are beginning to merge. Folks, the merge has happened. As John referenced in last month’s column, the cultural differences have to be acknowledged by all involved… and embraced. It must be viewed as an opportunity to learn and a challenge to succeed.
I came up through the ranks on the IT side. I now have daily exposure to the world of engineering, the ability to share my knowledge, and an incredible opportunity to learn from some of the best engineers in the business. As a manager, it’s critical for me to monitor and shape this process, and help to break down this cultural divide.
Personalities often come into play in areas such as this, so it’s important that all team members clearly understand where we are going, that we are a vital part of the success of this initiative, and that we all share a common goal.
This will also require adjustments and patience on everybody’s part. A solution from the past may not be suitable today and engineers and IT personnel will need to openly discuss the rationale behind decisions and be accepting of new ideas. In future articles, I hope to demonstrate strong examples of the integration of these groups, the successes and some of the issues.
Adding to the complexity is the more-frequent involvement of outside vendor-provided or turnkey solutions. Bringing all of these pieces together to ensure a stable production environment and provide adequate and appropriate security for local and wide-area networks is becoming commonplace.
Vendors take a vast number of approaches towards installation and security of their systems—often for good reason, but they can also greatly conflict with the needs of your operation. The security, safety and stability of your network can be at risk if these systems aren’t reviewed carefully. Working together to identify these differences, and then find viable and acceptable solutions for all parties involved can be a challenge. Vendors may provide a solution we seek, but it can also add to the complexity of our existing networks. We’ll review some specific examples in future issues.
Our networks used to be uncomplicated islands, primarily used for their specific purpose or department. There were far less risks associated with one system—or user—impacting another. Of course, there was also much less traffic. Today, we’ve added enterprise e-mail systems, centralized anti-virus, security scans, broadcast traffic, etc. In recent years, we’ve dealt with all of these additions, primarily on the “business side” of the stations. Today, it’s not unusual to have a true, single LAN infrastructure at a site where that single connection between the business side and production/engineering has finally been put into place.
I’ll also provide insight into our operations, and how we have approached many of these issues. Your feedback and examples are always welcomed. We’re all in this together and the sharing of ideas will be beneficial to all.
For now, begin thinking about the changes you’ve seen in the past few years. Look at the expansion of your networks, the increasingly important role of IT in day-to-day operations and how your teams work together. Understanding where we came from, where we’re at today and where we’re headed will be of paramount importance to our future. Count on IT!
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