iStock 000013893478Large

Cloud is enabling a big shift in the allocation of assets and fundamentally altering conventional IT capital expenditure models, according to the CIO of a leading sports and creative talent management firm.

Michael Keithley, CIO of Creative Artists Agency, believes the shift is reflected well beyond bits, bytes and hardware to headcount of IT teams and size of their budget.

"We are a professional services firm in the main. Image and talent rights management has information dissemination and storage at its heart. So a shift to the cloud is about leveraging technology for business advantage," he told CIO UK at a recent ServiceNow conference.

Keithley, who has been the CIO of CAA for nearly 23 years, recollects that when he owned and operated data centres and service infrastructure, his budgetary planning was nothing like it is today.

"A disproportionate amount of my budget was going towards 'caring and feeding' that world. These days, as I outsource much of that to SaaS infrastructure providers; I can literally close down data centres, save on the spend and reallocate it to other areas. I am not the only CIO in the wider services sector thinking along those lines."

But Keithley admits the journey was not perfect.


"We tried pretty much everything that's out there and for one reason or another they failed. It was a very frustrating experience. Finally, ServiceNow came on our radar two years ago with a keenness to engage with our way of thinking. That vendor IT Service Management (ITSM) partnership is ongoing in tandem with our own digital evolution.

"Go back a few decades and CAA's IT estate comprised of a few word processors. I got puzzling looks when I insisted on registering our company's web domain. It's all laughable on hindsight given the pace of digitisation we see today, yet it also gives you an indication of how hard CIOs have had to work to convert sceptics."   

The CAA tech chief also says adaptability is the key survival in a 'brutal' IT world. "I feel I am a businessman first and IT executive next. Any IT professional who has the capability of being more of a business analyst and less 'techie' would be in good stead," he says.

"However, if you are rigid and refuse to budge from your professional comfort zone of say being a server expert or data centre expert to understand and explore other avenues in an ever-changing IT world, that'd be a big mistake.

"Further up the food chain, CIOs who refuse adapt would be relegated to merely keeping the lights on within their companies or worse still see their remit either getting attacked or swallowed up by CMOs."


In a wide ranging discussion with CIO UK, Keithley also said data security was the biggest challenge facing his global team of 60, including seven senior managers who report directly to him.

"I once got a call in the middle of the night from the FBI saying that we were being targetted by hackers. That is a call no CIO would want to hear anytime of the day. Our Chief Security Officer (CSO) always prepares for the worst case scenario which keeps us on our toes. That way, should there be an attack, regardless of its scale, our response and preparedness is better."

And data security concerns have not dampened the Los Angeles-based company's enthusiasm for Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). In fact, the firm which claims to represent Tinsel Town and Sports Village inhabitants alike had secure BYOD even before the acronym was born.

"We support any browser, any platform, any device – some of our colleagues' Tesla car consoles have browsers to login to our ITSM framework; we have connected homes, connected gadgets, and an enthusiasm for the 'Internet of Things'. This is anything but traditional IT – everything digital is my realm."

However, Keithley remains noncommittal about his take on who will win the OS wars. "Perhaps there might never be a clear winner. I think Android is in a very good place owing to its open source nature and the sheer volumes the OS now has.

"For sure both Apple and Microsoft are responding. But the days of a homogenous OS are pretty much gone. CIOs will have a front row seat as it all unfolds and get paid to be there. I am part of that club and the wider tech fraternity, nothing could be more exciting."