By  on January 12, 2005

J.E. Henry, senior vice president and chief information officer of Regal Entertainment Group, knows one thing: the role of the IT department is to serve the organization, clear and simple. He also knows that while doing so might come at a cost, it better not cost too much.

When the company acquired several chains and expanded quickly in 2002, the IT department’s organizational structure, vision and services offering had to change and grow. “We were forced to change. We raised the bar on the people we hire. We raised the bar on the technologies we employ. We raised the bar on the partners we partner with. We reshaped the organization and moved to a more formal environment,” Henry said.

“Some people believe a theater is or should be simple and technology is a barrier rather than a facilitator. I think those people are narrow-minded. Because if you are trying to track $2.5 billion in revenue, you better have a POS platform that is very reliable, secure, with broad protection built into it. Think about it. Most of what we are doing is focused on how can we help the consumer have a better experience in our theaters,” he added.

But that doesn’t mean spending huge amounts of money on IT or on staff — not to mention per-diem reimbursement. For example, since the acquisition of Untied Artists and Edwards, the company’s revenues have jumped nearly fivefold. But IT staffing has barely doubled.

“We have over 27,000 employees now, and 53 IT employees. That’s lean and mean. We have done that as a philosophy. We have an accordion type philosophy — or I do. If we need to expand or need more resources, we generally go outside. And if we need to contract for any reason, we shed those outside resources,” Henry said.

“The company also has a $25 a day per-diem and we only pay 24 cents per mile for mileage. You have to be creative to make that work. Find a hotel with continental breakfast, hit McDonald’s for lunch and have a reasonable dinner. I think our employees appreciate it, actually. They know the less we spend, the more we are going to pay them in stock options and bonuses,” he said.The bottom line for Henry: “At one point, we said we wanted to be the Wal-Mart of the theater business. I am not sure that we are not. I think we are the best-run organization out there. I would put us up against anyone. And I think we are going to be light years ahead of anyone,” when all the IT projects now under way are completed.

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