Boston Globe Rebuilds Its IT Infrastructure After New Owner Takes Over

The Globe is creating its own IT infrastructure after using shared platforms with former owner The New York Times. Mendix is helping with the transformation.

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rebuilding IT infrastructure

ROTTERDAM, HOLLAND—When The Boston Globe was sold by The New York Times in October 2013, it meant far more than a change in management at the then-141-year-old flagship newspaper in Beantown. The Globe also had to undergo quick technology changes as it was broken away from its previous owners and their IT systems.

That is the problem facing Wade Sendall, vice president of IT at The Globe, who along with his IT team has been charged with making whatever technology transitions are necessary since the sale of the newspaper publishing company. After The Times bought The Globe in October 1993, many IT systems were centralized, including networks, financial systems, advertising systems and more, said Sendall.

With The Times' sale of The Globe to John W. Henry, the principal owner of the Boston Red Sox baseball club, those centralized functions have to be split up, which means new software and systems have to be brought in.

"With a new owner, there was more opportunity," said Sendall. "We need to be more entrepreneurial. We have to go to more multimedia content from print."

But with a limited IT budget and a staff of only 60, Sendall's team had their work cut out for them.

The IT team began late last year by first trying to figure out how they would replace workflows from Lotus Notes after the two companies separated. Sendall and his staff talked to several vendors to see how they might make the needed Lotus changes, but in the meantime, they received a well-timed email from a Rotterdam-based Mendix describing the Mendix App Platform enterprise app building tools. Sendall and his staff had looked at Mendix several years before, but at the time, it wasn't as robust and didn't have a U.S. presence.

With the reintroduction to Mendix, Sendall and his staff looked at the vendor to replace those Lotus workflows with easily built apps using the Mendix app platform, he said. Quickly, Mendix solved the workflow problems.

Sendall's staff also saw that Mendix could help them solve other software issues that had to be adapted as the six- to nine-month deadline loomed for the company's IT changeover.

"We saw we could build the Lotus app and then build new apps that we needed," Sendall told eWEEK in an interview at the vendor's annual Mendix World conference here recently. "We really needed to accelerate the application delivery … while bringing in the business units" for their input on what they needed to get their work completed.

The first project built using Mendix was a database to track needed corrections for published stories that contained errors. The next was a database for the newspaper's 500 or so freelance photographers, who are managed by multiple editors as needed. Using Mendix, the team built the app in 30 days, compared with the one year it took to build a previous in-house version in the past, according to Sendall.

"In the past, applications were built by developers and they'd eventually leave, leaving a hodge-podge" of code and applications, said Sendall. "So what we've tried to do is put this platform in place to increase flexibility. It means easier changes, support and documentation for the future," since it is all stored in the platform.

So far, the paper isn't using Mendix on the cloud since it began working with the platform this past January, he said. At present, the company is using Mendix in-house to save money and will look at possible cloud hosting in the future.

The Lotus database work is ongoing now using Mendix, but the early successes with the other apps is causing internal business units to push their most-wanted new apps to the front of the line for completion, according to Sendall. Those new apps are the ones that can help drive revenue and new business, so they are getting priority, he said. "We're in the process of evaluating which apps to build first," he said. "We expect to get more of those apps built before the Lotus databases."

"Frankly, all we expected from Mendix when we first started talking to them was to replace Lotus Notes," said Sendall. "What we were surprised by was the ability to build apps" so easily.

As the technology changes continue at The Globe, Sendall said he is thankful for the flexibility that the Mendix platform provides for his team. "I want to make sure that IT is looked at as an enabler and not as a blocker."