News UK is the British newspaper publisher owned by Rupert Murdoch's New Corp, and rebranded from News International in June 2013. News UK publishes The Times, The Sunday Times and The Sun newspapers, with former publications including the News of the World, Today and The London Paper.
Chris Taylor is a former CIO at B2B media company Emap and joined News UK as CIO in September 2012. Taylor followed in the footsteps of Paul Cheesbrough, the former Telegraph Media Group CIO who moved to News International before his appointment as CTO at News Corp in the US.
Taylor was given joint chief operating officer responsibilities in July 2013, replacing David Dinsmore who left his post as director of operations to editor of The Sun.
CIO UK spoke to Taylor in May last year about his role, the CIO explaining he was on a mission to migrate all of the organisation's IT infrastructure to the cloud, mobilise the News UK workforce and really "crack digital advertising on tablet and smartphone platforms".
What is your job title?
Chief Operating Officer (encompassing the CIO role)
When did you start your current role?
COO since July 2013, CIO since September 2012
Have you completed an MBA?
Yes, at Ashridge Business School, awarded a distinction
Order the following sources of advice/information by value to you:
2. Peer group
Technology strategy and spending
What is the major transformational IT project that has been recently completed, or is underway at your organisation?
We are entering the final year of a 3 year programme to completely transform and equip our newsrooms for the 21st century. We call the programme Newsroom 360 because it genuinely covers business process and workflow transformation as well as the implementation of state-of-the-art multi-platform publishing technologies.
What impact will it/does it have on the organisation?
It gives our journalists the ability to truly operate across multiple platforms and provides as much future proofing as possible for emerging content platforms of the future. In short, it helps secure the future of our quality journalism.
What new strategic technology deals has your organisation struck and with whom?
In the last year we did a deal with Kodak to install their inkjet digital printing technology onto our physical printing presses. This allows us to print a unique code on every single copy of The Sun that is produced. That in linked to an algorithm based code generation and validation system and a full access control layer within our digital products. The net result of this innovation is that loyal print readers of The Sun can now seamlessly access the full suite of Sun+ digital products which are otherwise only available to digital subscribers.
Name your strategic technology suppliers?
Selected examples from the second tier:
Eidos Media (Newsroom 360 systems)
The App Business (app development)
How much is the IT operational spend compared to the revenue or company turnover as a percentage?
Circa 5% of revenue
What is the strategic aim of the CIO and IT operations for the next financial year?
1. Service excellence/get the basics right- as a technology organisation it is our responsibility to re-earn our seat at the table every single day
2. Create the best digital products in the news media industry
3. Support and facilitate business transformation and innovation through highly effective technology project/programme delivery
Would you describe the CIO role as a transformation leader in your organisation?
Describe the transformations you have led / been involved in, how did they transform operations, customer experience or the organisation?
Examples from the last year only:
1 The launch of the Sun+ digital subscription (steering board member and responsibility for all aspects of technology/project delivery): The first such digital subscription offering for a major tabloid and a critical pillar of our corporate paid for content strategy.
2 Newsroom transformation for The Times (project sponsor and responsible for all aspects of technology delivery and business change): see previous comments about multi-year Newsroom 360 programme.
3 Advertising systems transformation (steering board member and responsible for all technology implementation): A full modernisation of the systems, technologies and processes used by our commercial sales division. All technologies are cloud based and replace legacy systems that were 10+ years old.
Beyond technology, can you describe a business transformation programme that you own or contribute to?
Launch of SUN+ digital subscription, Newsroom 360 transformation (both described in detail above).
What key technologies are being considered to enable transformation?
We are Cloud and Consumer first in everything we do. As part of that, the ready access to the horsepower and flexibility provided by AWS has made many of our transformations possible. Whilst the use of the Google suite internally provides the collaboration tools our business needs to maximise the value of those changes.
What percentage of your applications / infrastructure is run from the Cloud?
35% today, target 75% in two years
How is the use by employees of their own technology, use of mobiles and social networking impacting operations, customer experiences or the organisation at present?
We welcome these developments as we embrace consumer technologies. We have a Tech Bar on site for staff that is based on the Apple Genius Bar concept. We allow employees to choose their device or even bring their own if they would like to. We have run schemes to subsidise employee purchase of ipads so they can experience our content on the very devices our subscribers are now using. We use social monitoring tools in our customer support centre. Our security policy is pragmatic, modern, flexible but also prudent where it needs to be. Cyber security is a true enabler at News UK, not a blocker.
Do you have a plan in place for how to deal with shadow IT and BYOD. How do you influence and engage executives, place the right controls around employee choice and engage with the organisation on this issue?
We welcome BYOD and have a measured and flexible security policy in place to support and facilitate it. In my view shadow IT is something that happens where the technology department are not genuinely meeting the needs of the organisation. If I did see that happening I would see it as an opportunity to improve rather than a threat.
Where do you seek transformational inspiration from?
Peers, the start up scene, transformational thinkers inside the likes of Google, Apple etc
The CIO role in the business
Who do you report to?CEO
Do you have a seat on the board?
How often do you meet with the CEO?
Does your organisation have a digital leader and what is the difference in their responsibilities to yours?
Responsibility for digital products is shared across multiple interest groups and governed by a product board chaired by the CEO on which I have a seat. My specific responsibilities in this area are all aspects of product management, engineering and delivery.
What percentage of IT budget do you control and what percentage of IT budget does your digital peer hold?
I have full responsibility for all tech both internal and digital and hence control it all.
The IT department
How many staff make up the IT team?(What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff)
250 in house staff plus circa 100 contractors (varies with project demand)
Describe the CIO’s management team, do you have direct reports that develop the relationship and services between the business and IT?
I have 4 main technology reports:
- IT Director
- Digital Director
- Delivery Director
- Transformation Director
All are required to be customer focussed and constant ambassadors for the department into the wider business. Each has one or more board members with whom they have a dedicated relationship.
And how many log-in accounts do you issue across you organisation?
What is the primary technology platform? ( for example ERP, Website, trading system)
Publishing platform currently transitioning from a mixed estate to a new system stack based on Eidos Methode and Opentext CHP