SIIA Information Industry Summit 2009: CTO to the Stars! The Shifting Role of CTOs
Moderator: Patrick J. Spain, Chairman & CEO, Newser LLC
Michael Angle, Co-Founder, President and CTO, Alacra, Inc.
Christos Moschiovitis, CEO, tmg-emedia.com
Martin Howard, Executive Directors, Transaction Advisory Services, Ernst & Young LLP
Martin: Traditionally CTO was part of management team, CTO would report to CIO. CIO was more business-oriented, but now it's strategic, responsible for I.T. function, more and more has that CTO function, more heads. Still see some confusion in those roles, one may be called the other, titles in flux.
Michael: In my case a COO, my CEO introduces me as the person in charge of everything that plugs in. For our business is incredibly important to the success of our business, not just about accounting and back-office big iron. Unlike top sales person, etc., they have their own domains of expertise, what I do spans all of those functions in the company, help to develop new products, influence how sales does there job, influence how we do social media
Christos: Looking at a transformation in the media industry, CEOs and visionaries trying to figure out the appopriate roles, the marriage between CEOs and the technology function being worked out. Starting to see the ascention at the CEO level that have substantial ownership and understanding of the technology function (COMMENT: Hmm, just like Silicon Valley has done for decades. Amazing. We're finally getting past the post World War II MBA management phenomenon and back to people who want to make products and services work).
Patrick: "Insurmountable Opportunities," what are you embracing willingly and unwillingly.
Michael: Cutbacks with "X" in the double digits, how can we help clients do that. I need to be a part of that charge, leading it if possible instead of following it. Have to have statistics on the ROI of content and services within client organizations. Unglamorous stuff, but you have to build cost control and measurement into the product.
Martin: ROI has to be on a business strategy basis as well as a cost basis. Organizations are asking CTOs and CIOs to be more strategic. Where are the very best places to spend to mitigate risk.
Christos: You bring to the table more than just technology but innovation as well, may not be an apparent savings at first. As technology has increased the size of organizations, more focus on profits and what it all means. We are seeing tremendous growth in our practice because of this reason, looking at what is most cost-effective way to bring in expertise. In each different are there are different value points. ROI is the governing driver.
Martin: Execution is also incredibly important.
Patrick: Issue of "fair use," has technology made the issue of fair use more challenging, are you more aware of what your technology can and should use?
Michael: Monitor for "bots" and scrapers, have automatic shutoff mechanisms. Sometimes you want to get scraped for business opportunities, but not every opportunity is helpful. Have to look at how it's being used.
Martin: It's a key factor for due diligence, for integration and acquisition intellectual property protection comes in very strongly. The law hasn't caught up in a neat way yet, but investors are struggling with the issues when they look at acquiring content companies. Deals can fall apart when internal protections were seen as inadequate or when the threat of its inventors walking away from the company scared off investors.
Patrick: More people contributing content, how does this impact I.T.?
Christos: First on copyright. Obviously the issue of copyright is very complex, involves legislation. If you look at it over the period of the last fifteen years, people have been running for the hills. Content has enormous value. People are doing extremely bizarre things to monetize content, yet people put it up for free to get the eyeballs. How do you think that we're going to protect it? NYT was wrong, if I go to a newsstand with the NYT, all I can do is to read the headlines (COMMENT: again, micropayments can help with this). The issue of IP protection is linked to this problem.
Martin: Content is still king, but that doesn't mean that content has to be turned by professionals. Bloggers have had a huge impact, most bloggers make money indirectly. Wikipedia hasn't put Britannica out of business but they've had to change. People aren't buying papers because they're reading Google News, good enough and free. For news, maybe that's better, reporters can be controlled. Some times people want to pay for access to the analyst for expertise.
Christos: We need to talk about the problems of the business models in a very fundamental way, the pink elephant is that the model is changing, we're going to face the came changes as the music industry has faced. Verizon is in a sweet spot, they own the last mile of connectivity, how do you translate that into the media business? Verizon "owns" Manhattan (COMMENT: well, not on an enterprise level), how does that translate into a media level? "It will go away after I am no longer president". It will always be the next generation's problem; well the next generation is here.
Martin: There is no problem with content, more than ever before, reading more than ever before, a simple problem of companies trying to make money the old-fashioned way.
Patrick: At HighBeam we created a mobile application, didn't make a penny off of it. Mobile has had such great promise, is mobile the new CD-ROM that will be surpassed, are we waiting for a good way to deliver ads?
Michael: In finance mobile is very real, many professionals have given up their desktop, how do I deliver information on a screen three inches square, how do you pull out the meaningful chunks. Need to get content on Facebook, have to look if it's appropriate to get messages on Twitter.
Martin: The technologies and methods of delivery is coming along, coming to a world where each person will have their own intranet (COMMENT: One of the more interesting comments at the conference. Compelling).
Christos: Technology offers something that was not available a year or so ago: location awareness. Can provide very specific content. The world of science fiction is becoming fact rapidly. Happened earlier with instant messaging, it's not that it can deliver quick messages, it is that you aware that you are available. It knows when you've signed in. Your phone tells me where you are and when you are available. Mobile is very real and will dominate the space.
Michael: Technologies solve the filtering and context problem, geolocation helps with that, but what if I am making a pitch to Xerox and want to close the deal? It's not so good for that specifically. For the user it's all about the filtering, for the provider it's about getting the right stuff to filter.
Christos: Now we have technology where we can sell words (hover technologies) for advertising, when you have content that's sellable to the word, how does that affect editorial and sales? The two groups need to collaborate much more closely as a result. Editorial can no longer be in an ivory tower, they are now responsible for creating community around content.
Patrick: Video is entirely new to some in the audience, if you're a content creator and distributor, do you need video or can you live without it?
Michael: Many sites include a video on the outside, more than a teaser, the thought of the day, accomodates how people see core information.
Martin: Video's best for some things, words for others, as aggregators piece them together, not sure that providers have to be all things to all people.
Christos: At the end of the day it's all about relevance, video is straightforward to produce. Can never be ignored, need to talk specifics, though.
Good panel, operational views are a challenge to present in a conference of this sort, I think that Patrick handled it very well and brought some really interesting contributors to the discussion. In Q&A, Michael Angle suggested in a tongue-in-cheek way that perhaps we need to fire everyone in I.T. over thirty. That sounds like a familiar refrain from my own youth, but with online media there's a strong ring of truth to it. The technology landscape is changing so quickly, you cannot afford to rest on your laurels on older views of how I.T. should be done and to hold back your organization. But in defense of more mature technologists, there are plenty of forward thinkers of all ages who are ready to rock with new publishing technologies.
Labels: events, management, SIIA Information Industry Summit 2009, technology