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Tony Pusey's life in retail

Many organisations are looking to IT to open up new business, but for publishing companies it’s a case of embrace technology or die.

Traditional print-based media businesses have suffered significant dips in revenues as the market has shifted to online media and it’s up to CIOs like Tony Pusey of Trinity Mirror to help them reinvent themselves for the digital age.

Meeting Pusey in the company’s Canary Wharf offices, it’s clear to see that the company has a modern outlook, but it’s safe to say that nowhere else is the CIO’s remit more critical to the company’s survival.

Pusey is used to a transformation agenda though, from his experiences at Accenture and Storehouse Group, and he looks as if he’s taking this particular task in his stride.

Pusey has been at Trinity for over a decade, and his mood is confident and relaxed, as well it should be, as he has just returned from a winter break in Italy.

On the walls of the meeting room, high above London’s Docklands, are front pages from the company’s publications.

The most well-known of these are the Daily and Sunday Mirror, but Trinity also publishes over 140 newspapers and magazines, plus 500 digital products. It employs 6500 people in 60 locations across the UK.

CIOs need to have a deep under­standing of the business they work in and have a clear view of what IT needs to be put in place to achieve the necessary long-term goals, but Pusey works in an industry that is faced with an uncertain future, which makes defining such a strategy hard.

The traditional print media industry is having to transform itself into a multimedia beast even as it continues to operate the presses.

It’s a drastic transformation requirement that would make even the stoutest of hearts skip a beat.

Pusey says he has come up against his share of hostility, but Trinity Mirror is on the latest stage of a process that began many years ago.

Up until the turn of the century, Trinity Mirror had grown as a result of a series of acquisitions and had been left with a legacy of 20 or so autonomous business units, each with their own IT operation.

That meant each business unit had their own editorial, pre-press and sales applications, which had often been developed in-house independently of the rest of the company.

Pusey’s first task was to rationalise these operations, but now that has been accomplished he has gone much further and is currently going through the process of turning core systems into cloud-based services.

In tandem with this, he is driving the company’s reach out to readers over mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet PCs.

“From my perspective, publishing is a very exciting industry at a very exciting stage. I know it can be depressing when you look at it, because it’s going through a huge transformation,” says Pusey.

“Trinity Mirror has great brands and it has great customer loyalty. Our publications are read by a huge cross-section of the population.I think there’s huge potential there, if we can get it right, but it does mean a complete transformation away from the traditional print-only model.”

Consolidating the company’s systems was an essential part of laying the bedrock for the business to be in a position to react to the market’s migration to digital media and Pusey tips his hat to previous Trinity CEO Philip Graf for having the presence of mind to kick this programme off at a time when business was still good for print media.

Core concerns
Even so it was a long and difficult journey, and Pusey recalls that he had a hard time selling the idea of centralised core systems to senior managers as business-line MDs were less than enthusiastic about relinquishing power over their IT.

Their kit had to stay in their own houses, as it were.

“If you look at the speed the business needs to change now, trying to implement innovation across the whole business quickly is impossible in that situation,” says Pusey.

Pusey is condensing and centralising IT operations across the group.

Once he was able to get business leaders to relinquish their grasp on their proprietary systems, Pusey could implement a company-wide systems strategy that enabled Trinity Mirror as a whole to react quickly to the innovations in media consumption going on since 2000, in terms of web publishing and more recently delivering content over smartphones and tablets.

This last strategy has occupied Pusey’s time for the last two years.

“We’ve got to the situation now where we’ve got an agreed IT strategy. IT and technology is central to the transformation of the business,” he says.