DirecTV Pulls Mega Project Together

DirecTV Group kicked off its enterprise architecture project last July with the idea of putting silos of information into a uniformed system.

The provider of digital satellite television launched its service in 1994, and since grew from 1 million customers to more than 14 million. News Corp. owns a 34-percent share of DirecTV, which has 6,000 employees nationwide.

DirecTV owns eight satellites with more than 225 channels in more than 135 markets nationwide. The company is launching five more satellites for 1,500 high-definition channels. Programming includes NFL Sunday Ticket, Mega March Madness, pay-per-view and DirecTV DVR with TiVo.

“Time to market is the most important priority,” says Kristine MacRae, DirecTV’s director of business and IT integration. DirecTV has call centers in Boise, Idaho, Tulsa, Okla., and Huntsville, Ala., along with call centers with its external partners, including Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Circuit City. As a result, DirecTV needed to track sales and commissions and also pay HBO and other suppliers for programming. The goal was to move its call centers in-house from its external partners, but the billing system would affect nearly every system in the company, creating 50 subprojects, MacRae says.

Prior to the consolidation, DirecTV’s billing system “was held together with bailey wire and tape to get the bills out,” says John Squiers, program manager of IT for DirecTV. The billing system, which covered residential, dealer and non-residential/commercial, was siloed. “We slapped a user interface on it and FTPed where the data needed to go,” Squiers says. When DirecTV bought three companies, the use of this billing system decreased.

“The silos had one of everything,” including accounting, billing and supplier payment, he says. The goal was to retire the applications that were built in-house and move to off-the-shelf software, Squires adds.

DirecTV’s initial business process management project centered on building access to the BPM database, specifically writing macros and creating more than 120 process flows. Though the process was clear, it took 1-2 weeks for business reviews and another two days for export flows and to “make it look pretty.”

“We put the library in with shelves…but we needed to put in the books,” MacRae says.

DirecTV took another whack at its BPM system, implementing Mega International software—Architecture, Designer and Process—to redefine all of its processes. Architecture offers advanced modeling features to build application portfolios, showing how IT systems support enterprise business processes and operations. Designer, which DirecTV expects to implement later this year, is a modeling environment encompassing the dimensions of system design, such as service, information and object component architecture, using UML-based languages. Process offers companies analysis and design capability for capturing, mapping and documenting business processes and organization structures.

Mega software has helped DirecTV track its goals and strategy, as well as break down its business functions, such as customer care, billing and business analysis, across the enterprise. For example, the same rule applies to a pay-per-view request even if it’s done by phone or online.

In addition to redefining its processes, DirecTV went through a corporate upheaval when News Corp. took control of the company. MacRae and her team now had to report to three new vice presidents, a CEO and a CIO.

“Make sure you have executive sponsorship,” she says. Ensure they understand why IT is taking a project on and how it will be done.

About the Author

Kathleen Ohlson is senior editor at Application Development Trends magazine.