Network-In-A-Can And Other Ideas

Even companies whose business is communication need a little help when it comes to far-flung, complex operations.
InformationWeek 500 - Media & EntertainmentEven for media and entertainment companies, which excel in the creation and distribution of information across a variety of media, effective communication remains a business-technology challenge. It's one compounded by the organizational complexity created as media companies consolidate and by the expectation that the network should be everywhere.

For the New York Times Co., its Network-in-a-Can addresses that last challenge. First deployed at the Olympics in Athens, and later refined at the 2004 Democratic and Republican national conventions, NIAC is a standalone, secure, modular voice and data solution that lets newsroom personnel connect to the company's network from remote locations without the intervention of IT staff.


Average portion of 2005 revenue spent on IT

Companies spending more on IT this year than last

Buying directly from foreign suppliers

Centralizing control of IT operations in past 12 months

Bringing outsourced functions in-house in past 12 months

"We're faced day to day ... with having to act quickly across borders," says David Thurm, VP and CIO at the New York Times. "We're supporting reporters who are in any number of places around the world, from Iraq to Darfur to the Democratic National Convention, and each has its own complexities. It's a reality of our world that we have to be quick in demanding circumstances."

The benefits of NIAC are flexibility, affordability, and appeal to users, Thurm says. "It's as if they're sitting back in the newsroom with their phones and their laptops," he says. "The user has the experience that they're comfortable with. And the systems and technology folks are taking care of bridging invisibly to that user."

Bridging communications gaps among companies can be as daunting as connecting individuals. Commercial printer R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co. made a series of acquisitions this year and last, several of them overseas. It has spent considerable energy working to make sure its holdings interoperate over a standard infrastructure, says senior VP and CIO Kenneth O'Brien.

The company has been standardizing on SAP's financial applications. Some of its European units use J.D. Edwards software, but O'Brien expects those systems will move to SAP.

Donnelley also is figuring out how to best use its increasingly worldwide IT assets. It recently had to upgrade legacy data technology, such as Paradox databases and old VAX systems, to more modern and functional Web-based technologies like Java and .Net. Rather than hiring outside experts, Donnelley was able to locate people with the requisite skills at a recently acquired company, O'Brien says. That resulted in a faster, less costly solution.

"What really, truly takes work is when you align the networks from an infrastructure standpoint, or you align manufacturing systems or sales-support structures," O'Brien says. "Down the road, that's where you get the synergies, not only from a cost standpoint, but from an operational standpoint." To accomplish this, Donnelley has been focused on platform standardization across its business units and balancing its global IT-resource pools.

The company's efforts appear to be paying off. Last month, it reported revenue growth of almost 5% year over year and a 45% increase in non-GAAP operating income. The company also received two supplier awards from J.C. Penney Co., which honors vendor partners that collaborate to raise performance levels, limit costs, and develop new technologies.


Hardware purchases

IT services or outsourcing

Research and development



Salaries and benefits


Everything else
31% 13% 15%

Data: InformationWeek Research

Illustration By Paul Watson

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  A&E Television Networks
  America Online Inc.
  Charter Communications Inc.
* Harrah's Entertainment Inc.
  Hearst Corp.
  McGraw Hill Cos. Inc.
  New York Times Co.
  R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co.
  Rainbow Media Holding LLC
  Regal Entertainment Group
  Simon & Schuster Inc.
  Time Warner Inc.
  Turner Broadcasting System Inc.
  Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

* denotes a top 100 company

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