Channel 4 is a public service broadcaster which works across television, film and online channels to deliver its content. It is owned by the Channel Four Television Corporation and receives no government funding. Its income is generated through advertising and sponsors. Channel 4 has its central office based in London, but buys and commissions programs which are filmed globally. In 2011 the company reported pre-tax profits of around £44 million. A large proportion of this revenue was attributed to the success of the Inbetweeners movie, a Film4 production, which generated millions in box office ticket and DVD sales.
IT leader: Kevin Gallagher, CIO.
In role since: With the organisation 13 years and CIO since 2009. Prior to being CIO was Head of Delivery.
Reporting line: COO.
How often does the CIO meet with the CEO: Approximately monthly for specific project or programme meetings and for regular governance sessions.
Board level seat: No, as described above.
IT estate and or number of log on accounts under the control of the IT leader: Our employees are mainly located in London and all have a login to our network. This is approx. 800 permanent staff but we also have a multi-sourcing policy so have partners and other contract staff working alongside our people. People access our systems through their desktop and remotely through devices.
IT staff currently employed: 60 permanent.
Split between in-house/outsourced staff: The split is approx. 60/40.
IT management team and reporting structure: Nine direct reports; a Service Delivery Manager who is responsible for both Corporate and Online operations and infrastructure projects; seven line of business programme managers.
The Programme managers are responsible for programme and relationship management, system delivery and application support across specific business areas e.g. Programme, Business Systems, Ad Sales, 4oD (4 on demand) and Online. I also have an excellent support team who manage resourcing, PMO and Finance.
Primary technology platforms at the organisation: We have two key core systems which sit at the heart of the organisation: An in-house developed application to manage the full lifecycle of a TV programme from proposal, through commissioning to playout and VoD (video on demand) distribution. This sits on a foundation of complex rights management. Alongside this we have an Advertising Sales application which helps us to maximise revenues handling £1 billion advertising sales per year.
Primary technology suppliers: Computacenter, NIIT for our offshore work and Kit Digital for our online platform. We are increasing working with Amazon Web Services for cloud services.
Percentage of your applications/infrastructure run from the cloud: Using cloud technology since 2008. The elastic capability of the cloud has been extremely useful for us in enabling programme related websites. This opportunity to scale up helps us meet the huge traffic peaks from a ‘Davina call-to-action’ on live TV and subsequently scale down again. We are increasingly using the cloud as part of our core 4oD offering and have recently launched our Scrapbook product on cloud technologies. Furthermore we are looking to continue our investment in the cloud as it provides us with great flexibility for projects which may be essentially short lived in terms of the TV programme lifecycle.
Major technology or transformation project recently completed and how did it transform operations, customer experience or the organisation: We have pushed our technologies very rapidly over the last year in terms of extending our 4OD offering onto multiple platforms and devices. This has an immediate impact on our viewers as we are responding to their needs of consuming 4OD in a number of different ways be it from a traditional TV format through to a mobile or gaming device. Building on a core service we are able to scale quickly and reach a broad audience. As a technology department we are able to be very agile in our approach and this enables us to be very fast to market.
Did the above project reach its cost, timing and transformation objective: The project has been very successful as we have increased viewing across different platforms and devices. We’ve been particularly pleased with the uptake on X-Box and tablets and YouView which will be a very important platform for us going forward. As consumer technology changes and new products emerge we need to continue to increase our reach, offer innovative products to viewers and partner closely with advertisers.
Business transformation programme – beyond technology – that the CIO owns or is a major contributor to: The key programme was Channel 4 being the Paralympic broadcaster. We transformed views of disability sport and make household names of Paralympians.
Strategic aim of the CIO and IT operation for the next financial year: There are a number of key initiatives which will be driving the strategy in 2013, the further convergance of platforms, expanding our Big Data analysis and ensuring we have the talent in place to keep us moving forward. In terms of talent we have partnered with Westminster College to provide us with a strong pipeline of young IT people. We have taken on two student apprentices and I will be looking to further invest in our future talent in the next year.
Strategy in the use by employees of their own technology, use of mobiles and how social networking is impacting operations, customer experiences or the organisation: The rise in social and mobile has affected both our people and our viewers. As a key player in the digital marketplace we have to, not only keep up to date with mobile and social networking, but often be ahead of it. A good example of this is our launch of Scrapbook, which joins our products with our viewers use of online. We’ve also had great successes with some novel ideas like our Million Pound Drop play-along game. This embraces the idea that our traditional format of TV can co-exist with social media in a mutually beneficial way.
Strategy for dealing with shadow IT and BYOD including influence and engagement with executives, to place the right controls around employee choice: We have supported BYOD for some time. Our role is to help people be as productive as they can and work in a way that best suits their needs. In the early days we supported some areas of the business in giving them Macs in a predominantly Windows workplace and we now support and encourage most devices. What is key to our business is that we provide the flexibility they require while still ensuring we adhere to security and other best practices for our data. We are very open to the business finding potentially niche best of breed software as a service which they feel will enhance their lines of business. We can provide technical due diligence and implementation support. This gives us the ability to concentrate our efforts into those areas where we provide the most value.
Technologies being considered to enable transformation: We have a broad number of initiatives running particularly with the proliferation of ways of consuming video content. Internally are newest technology is in the area of Big Data to support our viewer engagement strategy. We’ve been developing our capabilities in Hadoop and EMR to complement our expertise in more traditional Business Intelligence.
Transformational inspiration sources: I like to seek inspiration from a range of sources. One of those sources is like-minded companies in terms of their culture and values, those that invest in innovation and their people. I also look to companies who have different ways of approaching transformation and change. Some of those I’ve been lucky enough to visit and spend time with this year have been within the retail, engineering and healthcare sectors.