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Disney’s ITIL Journey

The Walt Disney Company (TWDC) has five major segments: Studios, Consumer Products, Media Networks, Interactive Media and Theme Parks & Resorts. Glen Taylor is VP of Technology for Theme Parks & Resorts (TP&R). It is the largest division in the organization and in 2009 generated $10.7 billion – approximately 30% of TWDC’s revenue. The division currently manages 11 parks, two water parks, 42 resorts and two cruise ships.

The scale of the organization is extraordinary. Over 118 million people visit the parks every year. In comparison, the 2010 World Cup brought around 350,000 visitors to South Africa.Theme Parks & Resorts is the only segment of TWDC that interacts face-to-face with its customers every day, 365 days a year. During peak times some parks are open and full of guests for 18 hours a day. The 42 resorts have over 36,000 rooms worldwide. Cosmic Ray’s restaurant at Magic Kingdom in Orlando is the busiest quick-service restaurant in the world. Walt Disney World alone employs more than 100,000 people and runs the third-largest bus fleet in Florida.

Demand on systems and on ‘cast members’ (as all employees are called) is significant. The IT department employs nearly 1,000 people globally, manages contractors and consultants and works closely with TWDC’s Enterprise IT team on outsourced services, such as data centre management (IBM) and service desk operations (ACS). ‘Each park is like a city in itself,’ Glen says. ‘Nearly 45% of the entire company’s applications are dedicated to TP&R. We have over 800 applications and 1,800 servers. The pressure on reliability and availability is enormous.’

Clearly, excellence in service management is critical for the organization. ‘Guests have high expectations of what a Disney Parks experience should be and we are a guest-centric business. We are focused on telling the story through immersive experiences and in-the-moment interactions between guests and cast members. Technology is used to advance that story. Behind the scenes we are looking for increased efficiencies and cost reductions while all the time improving creatively and technically.’

Disney began adopting ITIL best practice in the mid-2000s

ITIL was developed by the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) in the UK and is the most widely accepted approach to IT service management in the world. It provides a cohesive set of best practice, drawn from the public and private sectors internationally.

Hired by the former Chief Information Officer (CIO) to kick-start TP&R’s ITIL initiative, Glen has championed the adoption of ITIL since his appointment in 2008. Already an experienced ITIL adopter, he was keen to move towards an integrated service management approach, backed up by ITIL best practice. ‘ITIL aligns IT with the business and our goal was to grow into a more proactive IT organization. We were looking for an improved level of service. ITIL helped provide the tools and metrics to define the value of IT services.’

The ultimate objective of TP&R is to provide guests with ‘the perfect experience.’ For IT, this means 100% availability, reliability and maintainability. ‘It means we have to ensure that widespread change does not result in incidents; that we are sure-footed and confident with our release management and new capabilities. We also need to ensure we manage our outsourcing contracts with the utmost professionalism. ITIL best practice provides these assurances,’ Glen says.

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