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Taking Advantage of Bigger Opportunities

My wish list for 2014 would be focused on providing our business with solutions that help us take advantage of the big opportunities or that help us solve the big problems, rather than any specific technologies. Providers who can show how their offering will help our business by introducing a better product for our customers, reducing our costs, increasing our revenue, improving the quality of our user experience, or whatever adds value–those are the providers that we will invest in with our time, effort, and money. The successful providers don’t just try to sell us neat technology, instead they offer us technology and show us how it can give our business real value.

Integrating New Capabilities into Existing Technology

One of the things that keeps me awake at night is how to make sure our technology initiatives are on time, within budget, and meet the business’ real needs. I also worry about all those great legacy systems that give us great competitive advantage with the existing marketplace, but are really hard to change quickly when market conditions change. Anything that helps us quickly integrate new technology or new capabilities into our existing technology environment would be very useful.

Convergence of IT with Broadcast and ProductionTechnology

As a media and entertainment business, we are very focused on the changing way that consumers access our content.

As more content is created or captured digitally, there are potentially more ways to monetize the content

We are at the forefront of an industry focused on mobility and platform proliferation that goes under the banners of “TV Everywhere” or “Content Everywhere.” HBO Go at HBO, CNN Mobile at Turner, and Ultraviolet at Warner Bros. are three great examples of this in our businesses. Consumers want seamless, easy access to our content regardless of the device they choose. Also, the convergence of traditional IT with broadcast and studio production technology,as digital becomes the pervasive standard, gives us both pportunities and challenges. As more content is created or captured digitally, there are potentially more ways to monetize the content. But the size of our digital assets has the challenge of growing in what seems like an exponential manner. It’s an exciting time to be a technologist in our industry. Whether you grew up on the IT side or the broadcast/production side of the business, it’s really clear that technology is a fundamental tool for growing our business.

My Role as a CIO

I don’t think the role of the CIO has changed dramatically over the years. However there are more CIOs today that fit the definition of a good CIO and that there are more organizations that recognize the value that a good CIO brings to the business. Great CIOs in the past and great CIOs today have similar attributes: They understand the role technology plays    in the business model, they are good at explaining technology to “the business,” they know when to place bets on new technologies–and how to hedge those bets if needed, they understand the financials and run technology like a business, they are good leaders who can get their team excited about their team’s contribution to the business, and they tend to be recognized inside and outside of the company as experts.

The technical and management tools that the CIO uses has certainly changed.

Think about cloud, mobility, Big Data and every other buzz word out there in the last couple of years. There seem to have been “game changing” tools and approaches at many times in the last couple of decades–just think about adoption of the internet and e-commerce many years back. So I’d add the need to spot emerging technology trends and flexibility in  thinking to the qualities that help define a great CIO, or a great CTO, or any great technology leader–whatever the title.

Advice to Fellow CIOs

I think the most fundamental skill needed is to listen. Don’t just come in and say you have a lot of experience and you have all the answers, whether you are new to the role or have been in it for many years. Listen to your business partners to understand what issues and opportunities they are dealing with, listen to the technology team, and listen to the marketplace. I think the most successful CIOs know that there are a lot of smart people in their organization and will listen to them.  

You also need to figure out how to balance tactical execution–running an efficient and high quality operation–with setting an appropriate technology strategy that is in full support of the business strategy. Those are two very different skill sets. And the day to day operations can suck up all your time, so it’s important to carve out time for strategic thinking.

You should focus on the value proposition of your business and, of course, look at the ROI before you spend a lot on any technology investment. But just as importantly, you need to have the processes in place to measure the investment’s success. Did we really get the cost savings we expected? Did we really get the incremental revenue we said we would? Did we really improve the service to our customers as we promised? And, some what contradictory to running a financially tight ship, you need to be willing to take some measured bets on new technologies, new processes, or new market opportunities. You need to be really good at balancing an efficient organization with running an innovative organization.

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