Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Television IT

Justifications For Creating an IT Department? 214

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the dual-purpose-departments dept.
jjoelc writes "This may sound like an odd request, so first some background. I work at a broadcast television station, and I have found it to be very common for IT to be lumped in with the engineering department at many stations. I believe this is mainly because the engineers were the first people in the business to have and use computers in any real capacity, and as the industry moved to file-based workflows it has simply stayed that way. I believe there is a need for IT to be its own department with its own goals, budgets, etc. But I am having a bit of a rough time putting together the official proposal to justify this change, likely because it seems so obviously the way it should be and is done everywhere else. So I am asking for some pointers on the best ways to present this idea to a general manager. What are the business justifications for having a standalone IT department in a small business? How would you go about convincing upper management of those needs? There are approximately 100 employees at the station I am currently at, but we do own another 4 stations in two states (each of these other stations are in the 75-100 employee range). The long term goal would be to have a unified IT department across all 5 stations."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Justifications For Creating an IT Department?

Comments Filter:
  • by InterestingFella (2537066) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @11:22AM (#38515078)
    You believe there is a need for IT department, but even you have rough time determining what that need would be. If you cannot think of a reason yourself, why are you suggesting it to begin with?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The OP seemed a bit ambiguous with the "'likely because it seems so obviously the way it should be and is done everywhere else.", but I am going to take it to mean that it's fairly obvious that they should be separated because they do in fact have separate goals, agendas, etc.... but what's a good business-speak way to make the case?

      • by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @11:46AM (#38515406) Journal

        To synergize our leveragables into a new cloud based paradygmn, we'll need a new solutions oriented IT team to create some actionables to create a win-win in reducing internal friction and increase efficiencies to enable the monitization of our empowered workforce.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by jhigh (657789)
          And to think that I just used the last of my mod points - well played.
        • BULLSHIT!

          Ok, what do I win?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          We did that in our organization. Then we fired them all and outsourced our IT.

          • by Sitrix (973862) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @12:40PM (#38516124)
            I knew a company that did just that... Outsourced company milked that company for money for a few years, while making short term decisions (often bad ones). Then, one day things started to break constantly and consultant was hired to locate source of the problems. Later, that IT was brought back "in house" to avoid making messes like that in the future. People that work under same roof as your company, tend to care a little more about your operations. This is just one example out of many, where short term thinking of cutting IT spending ended up costing company a lot more in a long run.
            • by zero0ne (1309517) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @01:21PM (#38516610) Journal

              He isn't saying to outsource IT, he is saying to break it off into its own business unit at the company.

              Give IT a bit more control, and make it a separate entity that is accountable on its own (instead of taking the engineers down maybe?)

              • by wiedzmin (1269816) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @02:33PM (#38517484)
                Agreed, I think that's the only functional model for IT - make it a separate unit funded through charge-backs to other units, as opposed to company budget allocation. Every budgeted IT team I've worked for was overlooked and perpetually underfunded. Chargebacks help distribute the costs across userbase and increase visibility into actual IT costs. Otherwise - IT is an unnecessary, non-money-generating department that hemorrhages money and creates downtimes for maintenance of stuff that works anyways.
                • by arth1 (260657) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @02:48PM (#38517654) Homepage Journal

                  Otherwise - IT is an unnecessary, non-money-generating department that hemorrhages money and creates downtimes for maintenance of stuff that works anyways.

                  In a small shop, having a separate IT department can be downright detrimental. IT don't understand unique needs when they sit across a wall, and often become a bottleneck, stumbling block, and someone to avoided to get work done. Without seeing the actual needs, "one size fits all" approaches are taken, which either burns money or doesn't get the job done.
                  The big difference between system administrators and IT departments is that the former work with the users, anticipating needs and finding special solutions. IT departments are good for generic work, but in a small shop, I believe they have no place.

                  • by wiedzmin (1269816)
                    As long as that mentality changes as your shop grows, you may have a point.
                  • by Sitrix (973862)
                    It depends on people you hire to operate those IT departments within small operation. If you get an energetic "jack of all trades" IT guy who has very little social life, but huge passion for technology, then he will create a home for himself within organization and maintain that "must solve each problem individually" approach. He will attract similar people to himself and with small group will be able to maintain flexibility, low budgeting and high productivity. I'll admit that success of that business
            • by houghi (78078)

              So let me get this straight: Long term thinking is better in the long term, while short term thinking is better in the short term?
              I am amazed. Does this only apply to IT or could it also be true for other things?

        • I think I just died a little.

        • Suddenly I feel all cold shivers, nauseous and a creeping sense of horror, like someone has opened the eldritch tomes...Dude, please don't do that over the holidays...
      • by sheehaje (240093) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @12:07PM (#38515660)

        Not sure what the business speak is, but the primary points to get across are:

        An IT Department will evaluate needs of the other departments and determine ways computers can streamline day to day functions, primarily by automating current manual processes

        An IT Department will help build computer usage policies that keep employees productive and the data systems reasonably secure

        An IT Department will help determine systems to expand service to the customer base. i.e. web applications

        An IT Department will recommend avenues to promote the company online to the marketing department

        These are all things that IT people do that the Engineer department doesn't need to get their hands in. Honestly, most IT departments split time between engineering like functions (Network design and implementation), business analysis (Finance, Personnel systems, etc) , and marketing (online presence). When IT is gets lumped into one of those departments instead of being it's own entity, usually it takes on the persona of that departments function. When I first started in my job (back in 1997), IT was part of the finance department. We relied heavily on consultants for network, security, etc., and were mostly comprised of programmers. Our main function was to help finance with spreadsheets, and write time and attendance systems, and other financial tools.

        We are now a fully functioning IT Department, with our own hierarchy. We do all the network implementation, pc support, server implementation. We have a few programmers who still do business analysis and programming for the different departments (not just finance). We also maintain a disaster recovery site, and have invested heavily in virtualization on both the server and desktop side. Things we would've never been able to do if we were still under finance. In the end, our whole IT department is about 1.5% of the total budget. That seems low, but our budget is around 300 million a year and about every 4 or 5 years, we can infuse more capital into the budget if our projects warrant it. We also charge back to the other departments as we are a shared service. It all needs to be analysed to determine if a business is large enough to warrant a separate IT department.

        • An IT Department will evaluate needs of the other departments and determine ways computers can streamline day to day functions, primarily by automating current manual processes

          An IT Department will help build computer usage policies that keep employees productive and the data systems reasonably secure

          An IT Department will help determine systems to expand service to the customer base. i.e. web applications

          An IT Department will recommend avenues to promote the company online to the marketing department

          ** IF you have a culture that will allow these things to happen. **

          • by Moryath (553296)

            Indeed. So long as your corporate culture takes fucking morons like this [slashdot.org] and tells them to stop trying to subvert security and stop "going around" IT.

            IT is important. But what you don't want to happen is you set up your IT department, they get running, they pay attention to the rules and the reasons they were put into place (system uptime, security, etc) only to have some snark trying to subvert them because "well IT used to be part of our department so they should just do what we say."

        • by Spazmania (174582) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @12:53PM (#38516274) Homepage

          Many of these are all things an IT department does BADLY.

          a. It is NOT the job of the IT department to streamline the business. It is the job of the IT department to facilitate computing resources for other groups within the business who find it worthwhile to streamline using computers.

          b. It is NOT the job of the IT department to keep employees productive. Nor is anyone in the IT department qualified to make decisions about employee productivity outside of the department.

          c. It is not the job of the IT department to set information security policy. It is the job of the IT department to educate the other groups within the business as to the security impact of candidate business choices, enforce the information security policies those educated groups ultimately select and architect the system so that divergent security policies between the groups can not damage each other.

          d. It is not the job of the IT department to market the organization online. In a successful organization, the online marketing professionals sit in the marketing group. It is the IT department's job to provide computing resources, to help vet prospective vendors and, on occasion, to warn the marketing group away from kinds of computing use that could be considered unethical.

          The engineering department at a TV station *IS* an IT department. They manage the electronic equipment and the maintenance of the equipment which facilitates the business. Under no circumstances should an IT department stand alone from the engineering department; IT operations is unambiguously subservient to the overall "engineering" effort.

          • by zero0ne (1309517)

            However, in some cases the BUSINESS says that the IT department DOES perform some of those jobs...
            (specifically A and C most likely)

            When it is the IT department who is on the line for security related incidents, you can be damn sure the IT department should get to set the security policy.

          • by LDAPMAN (930041)

            I help companies structure their technology management and governance for a living. I couldn't agree more with the parent post. In the context of a TV station it makes no sense to separate IT and engineering. Much of the underlying infrastructure is common to all functions and it's imperative that content producing functions not be impacted by non-content producing functions.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I think he's talking about business justification, ROI, etc. Here are a few ideas:

      1) uniformity and consistency across all 5 stations (reduced downtime and troubleshooting)
      2) tighter controls/policies minimize security risks
      3) faster turnaround on issue resolution (engineers aren't busy with other tasks)

      • 1) uniformity and consistency across all 5 stations (reduced downtime and troubleshooting)
        2) tighter controls/policies minimize security risks
        3) faster turnaround on issue resolution (engineers aren't busy with other tasks)

        If there is no perceived problem in these areas right now then it is a climb akin to Mt Everest in justifying this change to management. I've seen IT directors allow problems to fester and blow up because it is easier to get management on board for changes in light of a crisis. Mind you, this is after sending memos apprising them of the risks and current situation before things blow up--but it does no good to push things if upper management isn't concerned about it at the time. No fire, no problem. Your fir

    • by j-pimp (177072) <zippy1981@gmai l . c om> on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @11:36AM (#38515252) Homepage Journal
      Maybe he is simply a bad communicator in general, or bad at communicating to the business stakeholders. From his point of view it would be a good idea, because he sees IT as a separate discipline from engineering (in the sense of the particular discipline of television engineering I presume). He knows it would be better for him if he was in a separate IT department, but he doesn't know how to sell it to the business. There have been times where I felt I was right, but lacked the domain knowledge to make the case to the other side. For example, look at this question [stackexchange.com] on english.stackexchange.com [stackexchange.com]. I emailed ESR and requested he answer this question because I knew he had 1) good communication skills, 2) a better understanding of English and languages in general then I had, and 3) an understanding of DNS. While I am an OK communicator, I lack the in depth domain knowledge of linguistics to put forth an argument as eloquently as he does. To put it another way, pretend you wanted a raise. You know why its good for you, and you may understand why you are undervalued. However, you may not know how to sell it to your boss.
      • by the_B0fh (208483)

        If you lack the domain knowledge, then you lack the skills and experience to make it happen. Then you might probably also lack the awareness and the business knowledge against what you are proposing, meaning you probably shouldn't propose it in the first place.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @11:39AM (#38515304)

      The only reasons that make it happen is: An IT department will save us money in the following ways: x, y, z.

      You know your business and issues, so you have to fill in x, y, and z. Classic examples are reduced downtime, standard equipment and software purchases, consistent backups, someone to provide troubleshooting and training, documentation on the environment, and the ability to prevent the next IT trainwreck.

      • by jhigh (657789)

        The only reasons that make it happen is: An IT department will save us money in the following ways: x, y, z.

        This.

        The reality is that unless you can have a positive effect on the bottom line, you're spinning your wheels.

        • I agree. To sell the Idea you have to sell how it will save money and provide better overall service. If there isn't a cost savings, then it isn't going to be picked up. If it ends up costing more (i.e. New Manager positions to oversee new department) then it certainly wont be picked up.
    • by Caratted (806506) *
      If you read into it just a bit, I think he's probably having a rough time with something else: justifying IT to upper management. Which is a topic that comes up all the time, and could have found good results with a simple google query.

      Start with one big thing: work efficiency. How much work are your workers getting done when they're focused? How much more work would they get done with an IT department that has it's own budget (which has its own benefits for upper management)? Include engineering in th
    • "likely because it seems so obviously the way it should be and is done everywhere else. "

      Because it is done that way everywhere else is your cue that it may not be the best idea. Begin with identifying the real problems you perceive and determine if they mean anything to the business and if changing them is going to make your business and people more productive and happy.

      If you can't find rock solid evidence for that then leave it alone, maybe making minor changes that would yield a benefit.

    • by MightyYar (622222)

      If you cannot think of a reason yourself, why are you suggesting it to begin with?

      Because he's already pulled off all of his finger and toenails with rusty pliers.

    • by gsslay (807818) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @01:22PM (#38516622)

      I think the OP is quite clear why he wants a separate IT department. He doesn't say, but I wouldn't be exactly staggered if it turns out that he is in charge of IT. Having a separate IT department would give him his own budget, and get the Head of Engineering off his back.

      The OP therefore wishes a separate IT department for his own benefit. This may be as good a reason as any, but not one that's likely to cut it with the company. Particularly not the Head of Engineering. So he wants us to invent some plausible sounding reasons that he can sell to the company.

      Here's hoping the company don't read slashdot.

  • ... is the sweet, sweet rage it will engender when your future IT techs tell folks that they can't use their iPhones and the editor of their choice for undisclosed security reasons. Ah, I can feel the little bits of evil already spreading, ruining people's days, causing them to hate their neighbor, kick their dog and neglect their children, leading their neighbor to flip off an old lady, the dog to bite the postman, and the kids to grow up to drug addicts.

    Bwahahaha! Screwtape, you ain't got not nothin' on

  • Define your "need" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Count Fenring (669457) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @11:34AM (#38515218) Homepage Journal

    This may be a bit naive, but maybe the fact that you're searching for justifications is a sign that you're not quite approaching this the right way. Maybe look at it this way - what is the need that this is addressing, the problem it would solve, the advantage it would give. You say that you believe that there's a need for IT to be its own department - why? Define that need clearly, then start working on the proposal from that.

    Also, I'd give a strong thought to the relative advantages and disadvantages of the current system - it's easy to just disregard "the way things have always been done" as valueless, but processes evolve for reasons, and to at least a minimum level of functionality. Any change you propose needs to have clear, concrete, and valuable advantages over the existing process.

    • by mounthood (993037)
      Maybe the "need" is something non-IT people don't know about? Do they need backups/helpdesk/security/app maintenance/etc...? Bring in a firm to audit/consultant on IT issues (and make it clear they won't become the IT dept. regardless of their review.)
    • by swalve (1980968)
      I think the way to look at it would be to look at how the engineers' time is getting used. Are highly paid broadcast engineers being sidetracked with unjamming printers, replacing keyboards and whatnot?

      But in a broadcast organization, engineering sort of IS the IT department. Maybe engineering just needs to reorganize itself.
  • by kf4lhp (461232) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @11:36AM (#38515258) Homepage

    As background, I worked in an engineering department of a TV station for a while, and with the way things are going, engineering and IT are becoming far more intertwined and co-dependent on each other. Splitting them apart would, I think, be counterproductive - you'd end up with IT wanting to do their own thing and engineering being unable to make it work with their side of the house.

    Having dedicated IT people and dedicated engineering people is a great idea, but they need a single leader to keep everyone pulling in the same direction (and some cross-training helps too).

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      i also worked in the engineering dept of a tv station and i agree with parent. think about the equipment load. sure, there's a dc, a mail server, etc but there's also a ton of satellite, microwave, playout equipment etc that has every bit as much to do with engineering as IT. the important thing to have is a department where IT and engineering can work well together, and in a lot of cases it's totally counterproductive to have a separate department when a large part of your budget is for the acquisition and

      • by sunderland56 (621843) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @12:02PM (#38515606)
        Things like the microwave in your example must by FCC regulations be maintained by a licensed engineer.

        If you have a rack of 10 servers, where 9 of them are broadcast equipment that serve shows and commercials on-air, and one is the company mail/web/etc. server, why would you administer the two in two separate departments? Broadcast engineering these days is IT, to a very large extent - except that they are IT people with licenses and knowledge of RF and FCC laws and regulations. Creating a separate department to run the mail server is just silly.
    • by frisket (149522)

      ...engineering and IT are becoming far more intertwined and co-dependent on each other. Splitting them apart would, I think, be counterproductive - you'd end up with IT wanting to do their own thing and engineering being unable to make it work with their side of the house.

      But even if they are a single unit, you will still get the IT being neglected because the engineers want X instead of Y, and engineering being neglected because IT wants Y instead of X. There is always a risk that engineers will break IT systems because they are engineers, not IT people, and that IT people will break engineering applications because they are IT people, not engineers.

    • by Stargoat (658863) *

      Mod parent up.

      This is precisely the answer I was going to give. Modern IT needs to integrate its support structure into other departments, not separate it. If I ran a business, I would simply have an Information Security Department and not hire anyone that could not manage their own computer to the ISD's specifications.

      • by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @12:18PM (#38515816)

        I'm in an IT-Security department of a pretty large company, vice-CSO. Our department got the inofficial name "cover-your-ass-dept". Why? Because that's ALL we actually do. I try hard (honestly, no kidding) to make it more than that, actually giving people answers when they ask instead of just drowning them in "shut the fuck up" papers (called that way because they consist of strategy papers, position papers and job instructions, each about 500 pages of very IT-Legalese heavy text, intended not to be read but to shut the person asking up in a neat and simple way, telling them to RTFM. It's like the bible, ya know, whatever they're asking for, it's in there. Somewhere. Most likely in more than one spot. Most likely contradicting itself).

        The reason is quite simple. When the shit hits the fan (not if. Please. No company with more than 100 employees is tightly secure, you can't tell me that. If you want to, I'll be there for an audit. I'm actually quite affordable, I do it more for fun than profit...), everyone start pummeling the IT-SEC department, and then you better have a cover-your-ass paper handy to show them that THEY fucked up. Else, someone gets fired. That cover-your-ass paper is usually one or more of those 500ish page heavy documents nobody ever reads. The usual course of action is like this, you could pretty much script it.

        1. Shit hits fan
        2. IT-SEC gets flak
        3. IT-SEC collectively disappears between thousands of sheets of paper in desperate search of "but we told you this could happen if you don't...".
        4. IT-SEC finds said "but we told you so" and presents it.
        5. Nobody gets fired because IT-SEC did their job (yeah, right) and the poor sod who fucked up couldn't have known it better 'cause he's no IT-SEC.

        That's pretty much what IT-SEC is like in some companies. And that's what is actually wrong with it. So you shouldn't have an IT-SEC department. You don't need one! Hire some IT-SEC guru by the hour, have him design your company security policy (we usually have templates ready, just needs a bit of adjustment and you're good to go), and have him come in for a checkup every couple month, maybe 2-3 times a year. That's enough. And plenty cheaper than having a guy sitting around doing nothing but covering his ass.

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      Bingo.

      All ad insertion gear is IT based, it's a server, IT touches it. etc... Honestly as one that worked 7 years in broadcast, the guy is doomed. It will not happen. I ended up head of IT for one reason, I was the one engineer that was doing SQL work for finance. I told finance that I cant do their queries anymore as I was needed in engineering. They created an IT manager position for me to keep me in the office to work on their stuff, side effect was more pay and the ability to dictate IT standa

  • ... I'm thinking that you should probably split it off from your development department.

    Here's why (from a developer perspective).

    It's better for devs to have someone else build a good wall around their sandbox (note: around, not through) then to have us devs make the entire organization's security match our own needs. We're probably competent enough to do things right, just as we are competent to test our own software. And we'll get it right most of the time. Thing is, we'd rather be developing new and

    • This can work out if, and only if, you steer clear of some cardinal sins I encountered during my years.

      1. Keep the devs away from the other departments.
      If you separate development and operations, do it all the way. Operations is what the departments talk to if they have problems. This of course requires good documentation so the ops can actually solve problems. If you don't do that, everything will eventually end up on the devs desks.

      2. Keep the devs away from anything "live"
      There must not be any kind of in

      • Good theory. But in my experience time to market is critical. You are lucky if the devs aren't fixing live client data after a major release. Best bet is to ship beta to clients with backup systems of their own first. Nobody can vet data like it's owner. Then again you usually also know the really clueless clients. They should never be shipped a major release on time.

        When that happens the dev should be shadowed by a tech writer, a sharp ops person and the test dataset maintainer. So it doesn't happen aga

  • There is already an IT Department, but it exists as employees, under the umbrella of Engineering. Creating an IT Department simply changes the titles and reporting structure, and adds a new business silo. The bigger question here is what needs are not being met that make you feel creating a new Department is the solution to? If it is a lack of funding given to IT requests/needs then whoever is leading the IT team needs to improve their skill at explaining/justifying IT requests. If IT requests made in the E
  • by pryoplasm (809342) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @11:41AM (#38515340)

    If it seems like the engineers of the station can handle it, what exactly are you looking to get out of a standalone IT department? They can be useful if the engineers are overworked, but really you should not try to shoehorn an IT department if it isn't needed.

    Do you use Avid or another computer based editor there? Perhaps what the engineers are doing for their role along with IT isn't too much of a burden, or might be a way to clear their mind and work on something simpler.

    My first reccomendation would be to check in with the engineers you want to "help". Second would be to check with whoever does budgets or accounting to see if there is any room for it...

    • by vlm (69642)

      If it seems like the engineers of the station can handle it, what exactly are you looking to get out of a standalone IT department? They can be useful if the engineers are overworked, but really you should not try to shoehorn an IT department if it isn't needed.

      I've worked in environments like the OP and you really don't want to piss off the production BGP guy by assigning him to explain to the receptionist for the fifth time exactly how to use F-ing headers and footers in MS Word. Also you don't want to dispatch your chief station engineer from the transmitter site to cubie-ville to replace someone's mouse.

      Either you end up with very expensive high end people doing helpdesk work, which doesn't work for long, or you get help desk people trying to do extremely hig

  • Why change? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LWATCDR (28044) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @11:42AM (#38515356) Homepage Journal

    Frankly engineering sounds like the right place for it. if you create an IT department then you will probably be pushed more under the business unit and that could be really bad.
    You will go from "we need this to keep running" to "how will this expense increase profits".
    Of course the real reason for this push maybe that the Author wants to move up and become a "department" head.

  • In business areas where IT is a clearly defined discipline, different than what the primary business of the company is, where most, if not all employees have trouble performing their daily details without a clearly defined "IT function" within an organization, IT organizations seem to have sprung up as if they were needed, in all places where they were really needed. That they have not been (until now) clearly and obviously needed in your organization, suggests that the business need is not so clear cut. M
  • by vlm (69642) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @11:46AM (#38515398)

    This is weird because being in the telecom biz for 20 years on and off, including working at a place that owned a lot more stations than the Poster owns, traditionally IT and engineering have always run separate networks and always been at each others throats. To the extreme of having two boxes on one desk, one on the eng network and one on the IT network and an air gap between the LANs.

    Traditionally the way it seems to play out is the "IT" network is plain vanilla all microsoft centrally controlled and mainly focused on office drone productivity. Meaning the most specialized software IT supports is "Excel". The "IT" network swarms with viruses just often enough to terrify management at any suggestion of merging the IT and production networks (some "humorously" accuse the engineers of creating said crisis intentionally). The large IT network is famous for layer 2 routing loops (I can't believe they shut off spanning tree!) and whats best described as stupid OSPF tricks (like aggregating routes that are not "yours").

    The engineering network seems to mostly be linux/unixy with not much central control (probably no lan wide file server, probably no wan wide DNS, believe it or not) although "whatever it takes to make a dollar" does fly so there is the occasional stand alone windows PC, which of course never gets updated because no one in engineering runs windows. Sometimes there is a firewall between the production network and the engineering network, or the eng network sometimes "dials into" the IT net via a VPN connection, but often there is an air gap. The secretary who clicks on every pop-up she sees in MSIE has no ability to access, say, the FM radio ad insertion box, although both are in the same building and have "something" plugged into their ethernet ports. Back in ye olden days I heard stories about salesguys hand carrying flashdrives with radio commercials audio files over to an engineer on the production network, I assume this still goes on.

    This is also BAU common practice at ISPs and telcos and cablecos (kind of the same organization now, of course).

    Some (some!) plants I've worked at are like this.. The CNC lathes and mills, or maybe the printing presses, and maybe the cad operators and/or preprint department live on one network, and the cubedrones in HR live on another network, and never the two shall meet nor are they maintained and controlled by the same people. Often, in the olden days, they used different technology, like if it was a "plant" the plant network was probably that 100-base-F fiber or whatever it was called and the cubedrones all lived on conventional cat-5 for obvious length limitations and also ground loop issues.

    So that's your first job, decide how you'll interface the cubedrones with production/engineering, assuming they'll be interoperable at all, in any means what-so-ever. If you are not familiar with the telecom term/concept "demarc" well then you are in for a big education, thats all I can say.

    • by dcollins (135727)

      Fascinating post, hope this gets modded up.

    • Ditto (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Theaetetus (590071)

      This is weird because being in the telecom biz for 20 years on and off, including working at a place that owned a lot more stations than the Poster owns, traditionally IT and engineering have always run separate networks and always been at each others throats. To the extreme of having two boxes on one desk, one on the eng network and one on the IT network and an air gap between the LANs.

      Likewise - I was in radio broadcasting as an assistant chief engineer for 8 years, and we and IT were always at each other's throats... They had the usual "we're the only ones allowed admin rights" attitude, which interfered with my ability to work on our digital audio workstations and automation systems. Eventually, it blew up, and we severed our networks. Anything that played audio became an "engineering" machine, and they were reduced to tending the email server and machines in the marketing department.

      • by vlm (69642)

        Likewise - I was in radio broadcasting as an assistant chief engineer for 8 years, and we and IT were always at each other's throats... They had the usual "we're the only ones allowed admin rights" attitude, which interfered with my ability to work on our digital audio workstations and automation systems. Eventually, it blew up, and we severed our networks. Anything that played audio became an "engineering" machine, and they were reduced to tending the email server and machines in the marketing department.

        Ha I bet that was hilarious when the ad insertion machine started skipping and stuttering every 15 minutes when the anti-virus kicked in. Even funnier when the customers started asking their salespeople for credits. I've heard stories like that.

        One telecom related anecdote was we rented a windows based box with some exotic software having a high 5 figure per year rental fee and a "you break it you buy it" clause in the contract. A drop in SEC mandated (sort of, anyway) network monitoring appliance. IT w

        • by vlm (69642)

          Oh and another huge difference between IT mentality and engineering mentality:

          IT network has like 100 users (windows) and 1 headless box (da server)

          eng network has like 5 users (pc in tx building, pc on chief engineers office desk, engineering pc in the studio, maybe a couple other places) and 50 headless boxes (remote monitoring and control of an entire multi-station studio and multi-station transmitter building, extensive environmental monitoring of the transmitter building, remote access to the sound com

    • Interesting, as while my experience matches yours that IT and engineering always butt heads, the particulars are a little different. The basic issue seems to stem from the people approaching the SDLC from opposite ends. IT approaches a system in terms of maintenance, engineering in terms of design. This is pretty obvious, as IT is focused on getting a system up and running for a long time, while engineering (and web design and software design) is focused on producing something or completing a project.

      On

  • by joss (1346)

    Because people who are supposed to be doing other things (and are probably better at those other things) are having to do IT stuff instead.

    Having said that, if I was running the place, I'd outsource it *if* I could find a good *local* outfit that dealt with that stuff.

  • by lionchild (581331) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @11:50AM (#38515450) Journal

    It's been my experience that in order to move people who decide on budget matters, stakeholders who are concerned about money...you have to focus on how your change will improve productivity for others, how it will improve cashflow, how it will make the company more effecient, how you'll make all the other departments able to make more money or report more news, etc.. If you can show that IT as it's own department makes money, or helps everyone else make more money, then it would mean that all the questions about cost go away. If IT doesn't cost them money, if it helps make money, then everything else is much easier to overcome.

  • Ask your boss how many of the engineers understand and effectively implement systems security practices. Ask him if he's cool with Channel12 down the street having a preview of every broadcast before it airs, and not being able to audit accesses to determine where the leak or breach occurred.
  • by weav (158099) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @11:54AM (#38515490)

    Depends on the size of the place.

    Of course, engineering gets stuck with it at first because < cynical broadcast engineer mode > we are the only ones who can actually deal with physical reality </>... A separate IT department doesn't really start to make a lot of sense until you have radio AND TV who already have separate engineering groups with different takes on IT. CBS in SF has a separate IT group (run by a former radio CE) but that's with like 3 TVs and 4 FMs in the same building.

    If your station is the hub for all 5, well, maybe but I think it might be a hard sell to the pointy-hairs / showbiz-money types. Maybe better off re-org'ing engineering with a separate IT subgroup and breaking out its expenses and tasks sepatately for the time being.

    Eric
    CE, KNGY San Francisco, back in t3h day

  • You've got 500 employees sharing data. That's something that needs to be managed. Pitch it simply as focus and efficiency. Moving IT to its own unit allows you to have IT workers focused directly on IT. In the event of a major IT issue, you won't have jack of all trades employees trying to manage several different job roles. You probably don't need a huge department a small number of employees in a central location and one or two in each station.

    But also focus on training. The small agile department will al

  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @11:54AM (#38515494)

    Looks like it's in your summary. Engineering departments are station-centric while IT scope is organization wide. Can you cite cases where local control trumped organizational needs? This is a bit of a tangent, but you might want to look into the history of the USAF splitting from the US Army. Both had many intertwined relationships, but the USAF side saw how being under the auspices of the Army detracted from their own goals and growth. I see a lot of similarities here.

    Note, I'm assuming that your problems making your case are a communications reason, and not an issue of looking for personal reasons to sever yourself from your direct managers.

  • If you want to justify anything to management, the best way is often going to be to relate it back to money. Will creating an IT department save money? Will it help cut some kind of expense? Will it make it easy to bring in revenue? Will it help your revenue grow? Will it allow you to do something more efficiently, requiring fewer people to accomplish the same thing?

    There are lots of routes that lead back to money somehow. Improved security might mean protection against lawsuits, meaning less money l

  • I think your engineering dept is your IT dept. "Engineering" has many definitions and in the industry/context that you describe your engineering department seems to a support department focusing on technology. It does not seem to be "engineering" in the product/tool development sense. In this sense it makes sense for IT to be a group inside *your* engineering dept.
  • If you departmentalize IT it will be easier to outsource it.

  • The Flux Capacitor needs a Friction Re-lign and IT are the only ones who know where the friction spanner is...and stuff.
  • If you have a business. IT is cheap. You don't want engineers, people's who's time is infinitely more important than "fixin' the computers", to be fixing the computers. Seriously, you have to be insane not to have an IT person designated at least. I've had small business operations where I was quite capable of doing it myself, but I assigned the business to a friend and associate to handle it.

    Why? Time is money. Let's look at it from what one example I have done personally.

    Retail: As owner, my best time is

  • by rbrander (73222) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @12:13PM (#38515722) Homepage

    This already sounds bad to me before it starts. IT departments shouldn't have their own goals any more than the Finance dept. should have their own, or the HR department. All of these are "internal service departments" - they do nothing directly for the corporation, as such, they only do so indirectly by providing internal services to the staff.

    You may notice the odd phenomenon already happening in this slashdot topic, of a bunch of IT geeks making fun of, and heaping criticism on, IT departments. That's because internal service departments are almost completely incapable of distinguishing when they are serving the larger corporate need, and just serving themselves.

    I have yet to find the IT department that did an honest and humble cost-benefit analysis or risk assessment, one that came up with the conclusion, of, say, (to pick a currently raging topic as an example) "Yeah, allowing people to use Smart Phones at will is going to cause us a lot of pain, but that pain is small compared to the good it will do for everybody else, so I guess we have to suck this one up for the team".

    Never.

    The whole last 30 years since the PC came in (indeed, one could go back to DEC "minicomputers" and "departmental computing") has been one of steady spread and democratization of IT tools. "IT people" (that would be us, the /. crowd) have jumped on this cultural shift with enthusiasm and indeed evangelism. But IT *departments* have always stood in the way, holding it back, demanding to control it all. They assert the larger good, but never do that cost/benefit figure, never do a post-analysis of productivity "improvements" after they took over something that was not formerly under their control, and cost them quite a lot of money to manage.

    So get a security guy if the corporation can afford one and needs one. Get a central IT purchasing and contract-management guy, if that is cost-justified. Get IT-type staff, each as needed. But split them up, don't let them become their own department. Absolutely not one with their own goals.

  • That's what most upper management will make decisions on

    gaps - what can't you do now that needs to be done. both capabilities and time to execute may be important

    risks - what risks do you face with the current organization? (viruses, lack of auditing for any regulations you need to meet, hardware/software at end-of-life etc)

    savings - how much money the business saves with a proposed re-organization. this will require determining the costs of the new IT department. If the cost is $0, just do it today and

  • Unless you can demonstrate that having a separate IT department can save the company money, there are very few sensible reasons (legal requirements may be a sensible reason) for changing a successful organisational set up.
  • Figure out:

    how much downtime costs the company

    how many of those incidents are due to engineers screwing up servers or databases

    which engineers are avoiding engineering work doing IT work

    compare labor costs of a IT pro and Engineer

    If you can cost justify having six IT pros, couple of OS admins, couple of DBAs and a few tech support persons then it should be a no brainer...companies would rather pay engineers to do engineering work...not setting up PC's or installing and managing databases or patch
  • The parent company wouldn't happen to have the initials NAM and have stations all along the east coast from Maine to Florida, would it? If so, I worked at one of the Florida locations.

    Here is one shining (real world) example of why an IT department or one person in charge of IT as a whole is good: 6 TV stations. Some have Active Directory, some do not. Every station does email differently. With different providers. All have VPN to parent company. Parent company installs application on a Terminal Server for

  • Rather than rush to a separate IT department, try to more narrowly define the problem. I'm guessing you're seeing a difference between keeping the broadcasting equipment up and running; keeping the news, sales, and accounting department's PCs running; and keeping the stations' web sites on line. They're all seen by non-techies as "engineering" functions, so trying to create a distinction between "engineering" and "IT" probably won't go over well with management.

    Is there some inherent problem with keeping

  • by um... Lucas (13147) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @01:00PM (#38516356) Homepage Journal

    I haven't read all the previous posts yet, but my thought is "if it's not broke, no need to fix it".

    If you've been working there for sometime, and you're turning to slashdot to answer questions like: "What are the business justifications for having a standalone IT department in a small business?" then you're contemplating something that even you can't think of the business justification for.

    Really, if the station is profitable and is operating how normal stations operate, unless you can visualize how this would actually benefit the workflows, it sounds like you're trying to fix a problem that doesn't exist. On the other hand, if producers and editors were constantly throwing up their hands in frustration about this or that, then that would be the time to step in and suggest a fix. But from your description, it doesn't sound like that's the case.

    What exactly would the benefit be to having a unified IT department across 5 stations? What would that allow those stations to do that they can't do now? Would they become more profitable? Or would they be spending money on a new department that they had done without for all these years?

  • It allows management to see the costs of IT.

  • Here's something to consider: What happens if the company renames "engineering" to "it" and "engineering" becomes a sub-task of "IT". If this is palatable, then the opposite should be true as well. In other words it doesn't matter what the names are - as long as the functions are being taken care of.

    There is no reason why "engineering" can't have the IT function. If you are able to identify functions that are falling through the cracks (desktop support, disaster recovery, programming/development needs,
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Not many people know what exactly broadcast engineering is and are quick to jump on solutions that involve IT. I'm a broadcast engineer who has been teaching IT to the Broadcast Systems Technology [broadcast.sait.ca] program at SAIT Polytechnic for the past 17 years. The issues surrounding the broadcast industry (television, production houses, etc..) is that there has been an incredible amount of change occuring in the past 10 years.

    The transition from analog TV to HDTV has been a steep learning curve as most stations now have

    • by jjoelc (1589361)

      I've covered a lot of this in my "THANKS!" below, but wanted to reply to you specifically. If I hadn't replied below, I would absolutely mod you up. I started in TV back in 1992. I'm not so terribly old, but I ran plenty of shows from 2' machines, 3/4', beta (I can still make a betacart walk and talk, if you can find one still in use anywhere ;-) I was lucky enough to get in right as the first digital commercial insertion systems were coming out. I trained MCOs on FastTrack, at another station, we were bet

  • Opportunity Costs. (Score:4, Informative)

    by jellomizer (103300) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @01:15PM (#38516536)
    (I am using standard staff prices for my area, Labor costs can very)
    You have 10 engineers who are paid 90k a year. 1/2 of the time they are focusing on IT related issues which isn't their field. (450k spent on IT)
    If you hire 4 people in IT that are paid 60k (240k spent on IT) who can focus on their jobs and get more work done as it is in their field.

    So in this case the company is currently spending more per IT hour and the effectiveness per it Hour is less.

    If you replace it with numbers in your area who knows... You may not be justified for an IT department or you may have a bigger need.
  • Not many people know what exactly broadcast engineering is and are quick to jump on solutions that involve IT. I'm a broadcast engineer who has been teaching IT to the Broadcast Systems Technology [broadcast.sait.ca] program at SAIT Polytechnic for the past 17 years. The issues surrounding the broadcast industry (television, production houses, etc..) is that there has been an incredible amount of change occuring in the past 10 years.

    The transition from analog TV to HDTV has been a steep learning curve as most stations now h

  • by moorley (69393) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @01:46PM (#38516918)

    After reading some comments I have a few ideas. First you don't want an IT department, as the engineering section you want a sub group that focuses on IT. You are already technology management.

    The biggest selling point for an IT group IMHO is technology management. In theory you can run without an IT group and the CEO could take on the CFO tasks but it works better when you have an IT group working on utilizing what you are purchasing in the best possible way much like a CFO handles finances. A group that is focused on planning, supporting and implementing an IT strategy rather than letting everyone spend top dollar on whatever they want. Are you publicly traded? If so to my memory there are requirements for IT by the SEC.

    To extend the CEO/CFO analogy no one is allowed to justify their expenditures anyway they like, and no one group or individual should be able to use whatever technology they like at the station's expense. Even if someone buys it on their own dollar if it impacts the running of the station or the day to day they will want support. It's best to manage it.

    What a good IT dept/group can give you is:

    A) Fall back or options : If a server breaks or a hardware goes down they can have contingencies and replacements waiting to minimize downtime.
    B) Planning: They can either reduce cost or make better use of what you are spending rather than having HP or Dell be your defacto IT Support.
    C) Data management: Do you have backups? Do you have remote access? Do you allow work from home? Information is the new life blood of the contemporary business. Who is handling this precious resource?
    D) Security - The Fear Card - do you really want internal memo's leaked because you never had a supportable security policy and someone to implement it?

    If you really want to be a bastard recommend ITIL. That will tie up their resources for years but you'll have an IT group. ITIL is crack cocaine for management types.

    You are already handling these functions it's just time to take it on and manage it.

    You could always make the case for a promotion and be their interim CIO.

  • . . . then you don't need it. America has been undergoing an awakening over the past decade, discovering that it doesn't need a lot of things, like a middle class or IT. It also doesn't need a fast food industry or Viagra, but that's another post. Corporate America, which has become the new first class, has discovered they don't need Americans -- from manual laborers to retail clerks to discovery lawyers. Soon they will discover that they don't need America. Downsizing, a popular term of the last centu
  • by jjoelc (1589361) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @02:22PM (#38517348)

    Just thought I'd do something I don't ever see enough of here, and give a quick "THANK YOU!" for all the replies.Yes, even the bashing replies are valuable (in some way). If nothing else, they make me realize that I could run into some of the same attitudes along the way here.

    To give a bit more detail (I wanted to try to be relatively brief when asking the question):
    I actually feel very lucky. I work with a great group of very smart, and reasonably sensible people. I have over 10 years in the broadcasting industry. I also have about another 5 years as sysadmin in a small shop. I am currently the entire IT staff at this station, and the position was pretty much created just for me. The engineers here realized that the "general IT needs" were consuming too much of their time, and were suffering from lack of attention. When I came in, virus outbreaks were common (the AV server had been disabled in a previous virus outbreak, and never brought back online... Might have had something to do with it!), AD was in a shambles, growth had been handled by daisy chaining another switch (whatever was on sale at Best Buy) wherever they needed another port... The engineers who "ran" the domain didn't trust it enough to have their own workstations joined into it...I'm sure many of you know the situation. Again, most of this happened not out of complete ignorance or ineptitude.. or even out of much in the way of budgetary constraints... It was all because of neglect. The engineers had higher (and other) priorities, and usually took the shortest, cheapest, simplest route to "fixing" the immediate need without any long term vision of how the pieces should fit together

    Since I was brought in about a year ago, I have basically rebuilt the network from the inside out, with negligible downtime. We're on Gigabit everywhere, all on good quality managed switches. All the tangles have been taken out of the topology, servers, GPOs, AD, etc have all been whipped back into shape, and the virus rate has dropped to less than one instance per month, all of which were automatically caught by the now up to date AV software on the workstations. We have redundant WAN connections, redundant DCs, regular backups...I have built standard images for each of the major departments, all the workstations are up to date, documentation for everything not only exists, but is organized and easily found...

    I am lucky that this is a small enough organization that I know everyone by name. I make it a point to regularly, if they are having any trouble, if there is anything I can do to help. I have taken the time to learn the different software in use in each department, to learn how they work, and why, and have done many things to simplify and streamline those workflows. Again, I am very lucky that this is a small enough organization that I have the ability to do all of those things.

    I'm (rightfully, I think) proud of what I ave accomplished here, and I know I could not have gotten it done without the support of the company and the managers who know enough to know that it needed to be done. I have proven my worth, in other words, and yes, have been rewarded for my efforts. Now, I feel it is time to start the process of getting the other 4 stations out of the same hole we were in last year. Within this specific station, I actually like and appreciate being under the Engineering department's umbrella. But when it comes to extending my successes here to the other stations, it gets more complex, and that is where the separate IT department becomes more needed.

    So yes, to an extent, this is about positioning myself to be that IT director over all of the stations. It is also about doing what I honestly feel is in the best interests of the company, as they ave been good to me, and I see no reason not to return the favor. So again, thank you for all of the input, good and bad, it has helped!

  • One of my managers in the past taught me how to justify stuff by looking for the business case to do it. If I couldn't justify it that way, then the request wouldn't be granted. (I could come back if I needed to and try again.)

    So, what's the business case? How would it increase the profits for the company? How about the SWOT analysis - which model (current or your proposed) as the greater strengths and opportunities?

    Think like the manager to justify it to management; but you may find that it doesn't m
  • If you're trying to sell this to executives, it's not going to make sense, unless you can show that such a change will increase the efficiency of your engineering department, and save the company money because IT people are usually cheaper than engineers. Which, they usually are. Any kid out of junior college can man an IT department, for example. Sure, it's done that way everywhere else, but that alone is not a good enough reason. More efficient engineers that are happier, and not as overworked seems like
  • by jbabco (683308) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @04:49PM (#38518992)

    Background: I worked for 7 years in TV/Radio IT. Joined when our dept. was very small (3 people: me in support, a network manager and an IT director) and the company was one (national) TV channel. When I left IT was over 50 people, over a dozen TV channels, several high-traffic websites and dozens of radio stations. I was the technology director for New Media when I left (so you can tell how long ago that was... "New Media").

    You will find as your company grows the need for IT will become more obvious:

    • Do you want your broadcast engineers researching, acquiring, training and maintaining non-broadcast systems like accounting and payroll software, CRM, and email? Is that the best use of company resources?
    • Do you want your broadcast engineers implementing security policies for your corporate workforce?
    • What about maintaining non-broadcast hardware like printers for HR and new monitors for the folks in finance?
    • Not to mention traditional desktop support. You going to send the guy who troubleshoots the satellite up-link to fix the malware on the VP's laptop?

    There are dozens of things like this. The thing is, if you ask any broadcast engineer, they will tell you they can and should be handling this, largely because they have been doing it until now. In our case it was a protracted battle to wrench these things away from broadcast operations, but we had a very savvy and strong-willed IT director who would not back down from a fight. What we ended up with was IT (reporting into the finance VP at the time, now into the CTO) overseeing everything that is not directly related to broadcast operations, and Operations controlling their own network and machines, editing suites, AS/400 and specialty hardware that only they used.

    What we realized was there were actually very few points where these two entities overlap, and since neither side wanted much to do with the other anyway it all worked out well in the end.

  • by Gonoff (88518) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @05:31PM (#38519398)

    Very small companies can not really justify a separate IT department. All they can do is to have a support contract somewhere.

    As a company grows, they may find, depending on how much they use IT (yes, some companies do not need much) that they can specifically use an employee to cut down on external support. They will still need external support for network and server support.

    It is only once a company gets into 3 figures of desktops, they they would be stupid to outsource and have no self support. Many do this though. I have heard senior managers/execs say things like "Computers would be great if we didn't have to have IT." I suspect that this sort of comment comes from someone who was not allowed to put his iShinyNewShinyThing onto the corporate network or who did something really stupid and got in trouble for it. We all know the sorts of thing.

I am a computer. I am dumber than any human and smarter than any administrator.

Working...