Read all about IT – An interview with News International CIO Chris Taylor

News International CIO Chris Taylor has embraced Apple technology and helped transform business operations.

 

Chris Taylor embodies a new breed of digitally engaged CIO. Confident and eager to embrace innovative technology, Chris has helped spearhead News International’s move towards consumerisation. The media giant has created an open approach to device use that has allowed the business to develop a strong digital strategy. Chris’s work leads him to offer clear advice to some of his IT leadership peers who continue to swerve the concerns surrounding consumer technology.

“Go for it,” he says. “Consumerisation is no longer a choice, it’s a business reality. Your workers are bringing their own technology to the workplace. You have to make sure your business is part of the movement.”

Chris speaks to Creative CIO in his open plan office in News International’s London headquarters. Rather than coding heads-down in a series of grey cubicles, the technology team engages openly and is able to use innovative consumer technology to offer the best possible service to internal and external customers.

Consumerisation matters to Chris and his organisation for two key reasons. First, his firm now serves digital products to tech-savvy consumers – and where his customers tread, his workers need to follow. “We need to make our people curious about the digital possibilities,” says Chris.

Second, access to consumer IT can help the business attract the best talent, both in terms of technology staff and the editorial team. Giving people the right tools, like Apple devices, shows you are an engaged and forward-looking firm,says Chris.

Proper business engagement with the concept of consumerisation requires a high degree of trust. Rather than locking down platform access for employees, Chris continues to create an open approach to technology use. There are no limitations to the devices employees can use to complete their work, so long as the selected tool is compatible with the News International enterprise environment.

Compatibility requires strong relationships with vendors. Chris allows manufacturers and system integrators to come in and showcase technology. All the major digital innovators are keen to help News International develop its leading-edge approach to consumerisation. But one firm has been particularly crucial.

“Apple have led the consumerisation of IT,” says Chris. “For every ten people we offer a choice of device, nine will pick Apple. In terms of catalysing an interest in consumerisation, giving people access to Apple technology can really help.”

News International has introduced a shared ownership scheme, where employees are given £200 towards the purchase of a device. More than 700 iPads have been purchased through the scheme so far. Chris expects the recently released, and competitively priced, iPad mini to create another surge in sales.

But success in consumerisation is not just about giving workers open access to innovative technology. Chris and his technology team have worked hard to gain best practice techniques from the best possible sources. Senior IT staff at News International spent time at Apple’s UK headquarters in an attempt to understand how the technology giant encourages self-support.

Perhaps Chris’s smartest innovation comes in the form of a dedicated room near the company canteen. Inspired by Apple’s Genius Bar, News International has introduced a technology bar that allows employees to play with gadgets and apps. The hands-on approach to consumerisation produces significant dividends.

“People have a natural fear of change,” says Chris. “But when you show them innovation, and you make a switch to digital technology, you find that people can cope. Real business transformation requires a new approach to systems and technologies.”

Chris says the key to News International’s consumer IT-led transformation has been a change in mind set. A collection of small modifications can make a big difference. He points, for example, to a re-branding exercise that has seen the IT organisation renamed as the technology department.

The subtle change is part of a broader shift away from arm’s length support and towards deeper relationships with business colleagues. Technology support workers in the firm are ultra-professional; they are expected to wear suits and are financially well rewarded.

“Service is as important as fixing the problem,” says Chris. “Win the philosophical argument and you can focus on improving face-to-face relationships. Then a new type of dialogue exists – once business workers trust you, you can show them the art of the possible. And then digital technology can take the business in any number of directions.”

Support for the continued development of IT consumerisation has come from the Apple specialist Jigsaw24. Chris worked with them in his previous role as CIO of publisher Emap. The partnership has continued at News International.

As his own demands for transformative IT have developed, Chris says his firm has been able to take advantage of Jigsaw24’s ever-increasing service offering. Key benefits from Jigsaw24 have included on-site support, remote services and innovation partnering.

“To make Apple work seamlessly, you need specific skills from a specialist service provider,” says Chris. ”Jigsaw24 strikes the right balance between being large enough to cover our flexible demands and professional enough to maintain a close, human relationship. That balance makes Jigsaw24 a joy to work with.”

Such benefits leave Chris to conclude that all CIOs must start to embrace consumer IT. “Have courage,” he says to his IT leadership peers.

Chris Taylor joined News International in March 2011 after spending a number of years at Emap. He is responsible for all aspects of technology at the multinational media giant, including digital product, enterprise technologies and transformational programmes.

To find out more about we have worked with Chris Taylor on News International’s Apple deployment, take a look at the video below. Or to set up an Apple strategy workshop with our team, get in touch on 03332 409 219 or email B2B@Jigsaw24.com.

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