In just a few short years the certainties of a market dominated by single and vinyl albums has had to cope with everything from DAT to home taping to CDs to Napster and the iPod. Sales of recorded music have been falling for over four years, with sales globally down two per cent last year to £19 billion.

Some things stay the same, mind – in 2005 The Rolling Stones was still the biggest act in the US with sales of £97 million.

"The key to understanding the project is to see how business and IT have been on a journey together to build a shared view of the opportunities, benefits and investments”

Andy Hickey, CTO, EMI Music

The Stones is a veteran act of EMI, whose EMI Music arm has been engaged in a massive ‘digitisation’ project to help the company shift to a changing and different business model. MIS UK spoke to its CTO Andy Hickey to find out more.

With the band

In the post for four years, following stints at IBM and Accenture, Hickey leads the global technology change programme for EMI Music. He describes it as, “helping us invest in new technology to deliver quantifiable and strategic benefits across our business processes”.

This is mainly internally focused – for example, instead of couriers biking Robbie Williams’ latest album samples to executives across Europe, the content is now fully digitised so EMI staffers can listen to the music and provide feed back on the album online.

This helps prevent CDs going walkabout and ending up on the black market as well as dramatically improving the workflow processes and speed at which these things get done.

Other applications include one for clearance of music rights as well as a new version of its global management information system. That translates to a multi-year global investment in Microsoft technology. “My involvement has included working with the CIO and the business units to develop the overall technology strategy; developing an action plan to deliver the strategy; developing the costs and benefits associated with the strategy; running the programme work streams and sourcing the delivery partners for those work streams.

“I am also responsible for measuring the benefits delivered by the programme, which help us to fine tune implementation on an ongoing basis,” he says

Sound strategy

Hickey says the team is now into the third year of the programme and has delivered a number of systems to help maximise revenue opportunities and operational efficiency in a digital world.

The company has used .Net as a platform, “to deliver more agile and reconfigurable services, such as sales information processes without disrupting existing ERP systems”.

The other aim is to take a more consolidated approach to technology infrastructure – “by this I mean hardware, operating systems, database and middleware” – that allows EMI Music to consolidate technology globally and improve operational costs over the long-term. “The key to understanding the project”, he concludes, “is to see how business and IT have been on a journey together. We are building a shared view of the opportunities, benefits and investments associated with technology in the music industry.”

And for this company along with many others, to, “see IT capability as a competitive weapon and an integral tool of the management team”.