HGTV Meets Travel Channel: An IT Merger's Ticket to Success


When lifestyle media company Scripps Networks acquired the Travel Channel in late 2009, its IT group had to deal with managing another network without an increase in staff.

The merger went fairly smoothly, Scripps IT leaders say, in large part because Scripps Networks--which also owns the Food Channel, HGTV and the DIY Network--had incorporated business service management (BSM) into its own operations. The company could automatically provision new systems and change policies. And failures and misconfigurations were detected before they cascaded into more serious outages.

"We have a one-stop shopping view of what is going on," says Karen McCague, director of IT management and service for Scripps. "Having everything centralized, having everything in one place, everyone is looking at the same things at the same time. It has really promoted collaboration between different groups and helped us get on the same page," she says.

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The owner of the consumer-focused TV networks and Internet sites is one in a growing number of companies tapping into business service management (BSM) software, which focuses on simplifying, standardizing and automating IT management. One goal of BSM: Smaller teams can provide better service.

Not Just a Pretty View

For Scripps, the number of outages that affected Scripps' networks has dropped, because the company finds misconfigurations and server issues before they affect the network, using BSM tools from BMC Software. Mean time to repair issues has also plummeted by 64 percent, McCague says.

"Before we would get a lot of calls to our service desk that there was a problem, and now we are catching it and fixing the issues before the customers call," McCague says.

The acquisition of the Travel Channel was markedly different than another major IT project in 2007, when a major promotional push around Thanksgiving resulted in round-the-clock IT work for weeks, because server management used homegrown scripts to monitor most aspects of operation.

Scripps is not alone. During the past five years, business service management (BSM) software has gained adherents among C-level executives, says Jean-Pierre Garbani, vice president and principal analyst for Forrester Research. By considering what functions of the IT department are necessary business services, companies can focus on doing those jobs better, he says.

"Instead of being focused on the infrastructure itself, they are focusing on service to the end user," Garbani says. "To do that, you have to bridge the vision of IT and the vision of serving the end users."

While the concept of business service management was pushed by BMC Software, other heavyweights--such as IBM, EMC and CA--are competing in the relatively young market segment. In late April, Oracle jumped into the space with its announcement of Enterprise Manager 11g.

IT Prepares for Economy Rebound

Many businesses are using the austerity of the current economy to take another look their strategy for managing IT, says Jason Andrew, VP of worldwide marketing for BMC Software. Companies that adopt business service management can reduce IT costs, improve their services, manage risk, and have greater transparency, he says.

"There is a yellow flag out at the moment for a lot of businesses, and IT has decided to go into the pit while the race is still running," he says. "When the green flag comes out, we will be ready to race and be more agile."

While Scripps has been able to manage a new network and systems without an increase in staffing, the IT staff has benefitted from the system as well, say McCague. In the past, help desk service personnel used to rotate in and out every year. Now, they have less to do with triaging problems and more to do with system administration and management--an upgrade in their job description, she says.

"We train them on monitoring the solutions, we invested in deepening them technically, we have people cross trained in the different operation systems, and we are investing in knowledge transfer," McCague says. "By investing in the technology, we have also invested in the people."

This story, "HGTV Meets Travel Channel: An IT Merger's Ticket to Success" was originally published by CIO.

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