Ensuring Instant Information Transfer
Information and data drive modern businesses. Thus, the rate at which an organization captures and distributes information reaps a tremendous competitive advantage. Because of this, LexisNexis is regarded as one of the foremost worldwide providers of information and services to a wide range of professionals in the legal, risk management, corporate, government, law enforcement, accounting and academic markets. As a celebrated provider of Web-based research services and premium information sources, LexisNexis’ 2,000 IT professionals play a crucial role in supporting the real-time exchange of information on a day-to-day basis for its more than 5 million subscribers in 100 countries.
The LexisNexis Data Centers house one of the most complete and comprehensive collections of online information in the world. In fact, its online services contain nearly 5 billion documents of stored, searchable source information from more than 32,000 legal, news and business sources. It also provides access to several sources of externally hosted data, such as Dun & Bradstreet Business Reports, Delaware Secretary of State, Real-Time Quotes and Historical Quotes.
With 11 large mainframe servers that run 34 Multiple Virtual Storage (MVS) operating systems images, 300 mid-range UNIX servers and nearly 1,000 multi-processor Windows NT servers, the Miamisburg, Ohio data center is one of the largest in the United States. The center’s processors are networked and have access to more than 500 terabytes of data-storage capacity. A vast majority of the storage is used for internal systems, with 30 terabytes for the online services. The Miamisburg center provides a wide array of computing services including the preeminent U.S. case law citation systems, computing resources for the LexisNexis global enterprise, delivery of patent images to customers and hosting-channel data for Reed Elsevier, LexisNexis’ parent company.
The other data center located in Springfield, Ohio operates more than 100 servers and manages over 100 terabytes of data storage. This data center primarily serves as a development facility, but also serves as a backup and disaster-recovery facility for the Miamisburg center. Likewise, Miamisburg serves as a backup and disaster-recovery facility for the Springfield center.
Senior Human Resources Generalist Rob Beeler, who supports LexisNexis’ data center and network service teams, said the facilities’ staffs focus on continuous improvement to ensure customers’ experiences are always positive. According to Beeler, to keep customer satisfaction levels high, the company’s IT professionals need to be more than just technically proficient. “The primary focus in IT is not only on technical skills, but also on personal qualifications that align with the corporate core values: customer focus, boundlessness, valuing our people, and passion for winning and innovation,” Beeler explained. “Strong candidates possess not only the technical skills that will allow them to hit the ground running, but also leadership skills and strategic-thinking skills.”
Specifically, Beeler said project management skills play a more prominent role in IT then ever before. “IT work can be outsourced, but the role of project management often stays in house to coordinate and integrate the work. This trend further emphasizes the need and requirement for soft skills. Technical engineers now must be able to interact well with vendors and contractors, negotiate and sell services to internal or external customers, and provide quality customer service to meet the corporate objectives,” he said.
At LexisNexis, the overall organizational objective is to provide reliable performance 24×7. In order to meet this objective, its IT professionals continually strive to improve the performance and availability of information through its online services for LexisNexis’ more than 5 million subscribers. The data center’s hardware, software and electrical/mechanical systems are engineered with multiple levels to provide uninterrupted service in the event a single component fails. The systems are tested and maintained regularly to ensure they perform properly in case of an emergency. Moreover, LexisNexis invests heavily in protection architecture to prevent worms, viruses and hacking attempts.
The Miamisburg data center and telecommunications employees provide 24×7 system management and control for the entire facility using third-party automation software. However, these employees are employed in many different IT-related job roles. “We employ operations engineers who act as the first level of support to issues identified and monitor all systems to maintain high availability and performance. (We employ) systems engineers who are responsible for a wide variety of IT functions including hardware, operating systems, storage, applications administration, support, etc. (We employ) software engineers who write the code for applications and software development, network engineers who are responsible for the design, support, maintenance and observation of network traffic, and database administrators who design and administer database security, processes and planning. We also employ additional specialists on site or on call to provide the very best system support 365 days a year, 24 hours a day,” Beeler explained.
Career paths at LexisNexis are tied to each IT discipline. “We define the skills and competencies for each job and job family, for example, systems engineer, senior system engineer, consulting systems engineer,” Beeler said. “Employees can identify areas of growth not only to be promoted within a job family, but also across job families to broaden their skill set. We identify and classify management jobs in a separate job family. Employees can see on the career path document the required skills and competencies to become a team lead, manager, director, senior director and vice president.”
According to Beeler, education and on-the-job experience are the primary considerations for potential new hires. “Education and experience are primary. However, certifications play an important role to demonstrate external candidate knowledge where education and experience may be lacking,” he said. “Certifications play a more prominent role in matching external candidates to the right positions. For internal candidates, we rely more on past performance. Certification demonstrates you are familiar with the processes and subject matter, but this means very little if there is no work experience to validate you are capable of applying these skills. Employees at LexisNexis continue to pursue certifications while employed to maintain currency in their field and demonstrate their willingness to continue learning.”
Beeler said job roles determine whether vendor-neutral or vendor-specific certifications are more valued. “Some groups prefer generic certifications such as CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional) or greater, Dell and/or HP. Other groups, such as the network services team, prefer specific Cisco certifications: CCNA, etc.,” he said.
Although certifications are considered valuable, LexisNexis is committed to increasing the value of its employees through a variety of training and development opportunities — from formal, instructor-led, Web-based and computer-based instruction to less formal networks, exercises and resources — to ensure that the organization’s skill needs are both met for current job responsibilities as well as to prepare employees for future career opportunities. In particular, LexisNexis provides learning opportunities for team development, personal skills, customer support, sales training, technology training, understanding the business, career management, project management, innovation and leadership.
LexisNexis offers IT engineers both internal and external tools to grow their technical skills and knowledge to build and supp