Managing Colossal Systems with Super-Human Capabilities
Doug Rousso, Vice President of IT Architecture and Planning, Warner Bros. Entertainment
Knowing the finer details of every piece of technology, every process in an organization, and the dependencies these have on one another is no easy task for any business. But when your business is one of the world’s largest producers of film and entertainment, this is a job for a superhero.
A superhero is commonly thought of as a fictional character dedicated to acts of derring-do in the public interest. In the business world, some would argue that the technology professionals who maintain order amid the chaos of IT projects are superheroes in their own right. Doug Rousso, vice president of technology architecture and planning at Warner Bros., agrees.
“In the IT world, you’re often the last to know about major business initiatives that will affect the delicate balance of your systems,” said Rousso. “It’s difficult to know how each department is using IT applications or processes–and which of those are inextricably tied to other applications and processes elsewhere in the business.”
Yet, Rousso–who is no fictional character–has tackled just this problem. Using enterprise architecture, Rousso and his team accomplished the super-human feat of capturing and cataloging all technologies, processes, and systems within the company’s IT systems–as well as the relationship between all of these components.
Rousso explained, “All businesses are in a constant state of organic growth. For Warner Bros., constant technology acquisition by various departments gave us a number of different systems–different IT universes, if you will, without one authoritative source. Without the authoritative source indicating what we had or how it affected anything else, we were stuck in a vicious cycle–acquiring more technology, more people, more processes, etc. and trying to determine where it all fit and how it worked together.”
“Prior to implementing our EA strategy, this was the type of information only housed in someone’s head,” said David Randle, Warner Bros.’ MIS technology architecture and planning. “With Doug’s position in the crosshairs of IT and business, he was able to quickly see why this was a weak point.”
Rousso, who is responsible for implementing the plans for aligning enterprise business objectives with technology strategies, used enterprise architecture to map out the various IT systems at Warner Bros. Dubbed the Enterprise Architecture Management System, or EAMS, the team was able to gather and organize information regarding all of the IT systems–including the interdependencies and relationships between the various systems.
Before EAMS, the company had no way to see how the addition or consolidation of any piece of the IT system (people, process, and technology) would impact others in the organization. In addition to the interdependencies issue, the company had no way to understand if any portions of existing systems could be repurposed for other departments, often leading to redundant technology or processes.
Using EA, Doug and his team can now look at each component of an IT system individually–say, for instance, an application–and determine what data that application produces and consumes, what business processes that application supports, what technology the application runs on, etc. This information can be bubbled up into various portfolios–such as technology portfolios, application portfolios, or business process portfolios. Armed with this information, Warner Bros. can run comparisons of each type of portfolio to determine repetitive processes, redundant technology, or even gaps in resources.
By understanding the characteristics of business processes and applications, Warner Bros. can create a visual comparison of IT assets to see where there are redundancies and gaps. In addition to an operationally sound and organized IT department, this comparison allows the company to better manage its technology investments. “Meaning now we can make sure we’re successfully building off existing investments and leveraging subsequent purchases to make better use of our budget,” Rousso explained.
Further, the use of these tools aids Warner Bros. in its strategic planning of technology purchases and creation of new departments. With this level of asset organization and analysis, the company is prepared for any transformations (new departments, acquisitions, etc.) that are dictated by the business’ needs. It can immediately see where there are gaps in technology resources and invest in those technologies as needed or can add and/or redistribute staff appropriately.
Armed with a love of technology and natural penchant for sales, Rousso is a champion for EA.
“EA can provide a solid framework for IT governance, but to really maximize its business value, EA needs to provide a clear linkage between the business and IT strategy,” Rousso said. “A strategy takes a vision/objective and bounds the options for attaining it. Without a strategy, all roads lead to the future. With a strategy, a selected set of roads is chosen for travel. EA provides the holistic view of enterprise business process, application functionality, infrastructure, and cost efficiency that lay the foundation for strategy.”
With this strategy in place, Warner Bros. is positioned for calculated growth and profitability–making Rousso a true superhero to the business.
by Jennifer Lake