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1/11/2010
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Global CIO: 5 More CIO Imperatives For 2010

A media-company CIO calls passionately for more R&D, mobile, insights, simplification, and speed.

The recession that began in December 2007 and was officially declared in December 2008 was said by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to be "very likely over" in September 2009. Recovery will be slow, however, particularly for those of us in the business of news. We expect to bleed less than we did last year, but the economic downturn slashed advertising revenues and even full recovery will not bring all of those dollars back.

And so the Dec. 21 Global CIO column by Bob Evans on CIO priorities hit home. Yes, we need to be out front with ideas and leadership. Yes, we need to tap into the new opportunities that await. Yes, we need transformational efforts that will allow us to become what we need to be instead of perpetuating what we have been.

In a very real sense, Bob's Global CIO: Top 10 CIO Issues For 2010 column reflects the specific imperatives for media-company CIOs. We must reallocate monetary and human resources to move forward, not just maintain. To do this, we must take advantage of Cloud Computing and Software as a Service possibilities. We must look for every opportunity to further streamline our processes and procedures. We must analyze information about our customers to predict behaviors and target results. We must be alert to software and systems that can help us reach our goals. We must set priorities and be judged on performance.

And, yes, IT must be of the business, not just an adjunct to it.

Philosophically, I believe that a free press is central to democracy--that journalism at its investigative and explanatory finest helps keep this world safe from tyrants and miscreants. But the established model of a print product supported by advertising is breaking down, and we need innovation and diversification to survive and thrive in a world forever changed by the internet .

Technology was a driver for that change and will be needed to navigate the transition, which renders isolation from the business patently ridiculous. CIOs must be partners, must be proactive, must listen and observe. Must lead as well as serve. Accordingly, my agenda for 2010 adds five items to Bob's list of 10 issues:

1. Research and Development. We work with our customers, respond well in a crisis, are good about maintenance. But projects and tasks eat up our time and wear down our souls. By consciously making R&D a priority, we put a premium on creativity and exponentially expand our possibilities. Minds grow, spirits soar, magic happens.

2. Mobile Initiatives. Smartphones, electronic readers and tablets should be well on their way to becoming ubiquitous by the end of the year, and the media challenge is clear: how to deliver what people want how they want it--and, oh yes, figure out how to support the business of news along the way. The traditional print product does not translate well to lightweight, multipurpose digital devices, and we have to cast off old mindsets to succeed. (Interestingly enough, there's a giant screen side to this equation that begs for quite a different solution. At home, consumers want delivery via LCD and plasma high-definition screens.)

3. Fresh Insights. How much are we doing because we've always done it? What must be done? What need not be done? How can we help our users work better and quicker? How can we make things easier? If we ask these questions across the board as well as within IT, we'll strengthen our relationships and the business.

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4. Simplification. The most effective and efficient path from one point to another is a straight line, but production-oriented technologists are problem solvers who do what they have to do to get a job done. After years of going around barriers, taking detours and threading through mazes, we aren't always sure what connects where or why. As we consolidate and virtualize and turn to cloud solutions, it's time to rethink, resize and remodel our architecture. As a bonus, it will help with 80/20 resource objectives.

5. Speed. Any more, it's an instant, impatient world. We cannot afford bloat in our coding, our Web pages or our systems.

In order to meet these objectives--any objectives--it is incumbent on CIOs to inspire, enable and engage. There is no room for naysaying, no time for pessimism. With much to do, we must give our all, do our best. And we'd best get on with it.

Janet H. Woods is Chief Information Officer at the St. Petersburg Times.

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