Q&A: Tim Jones, Trader Media Group

In the third interview of our special series talking to IT and business leaders who are taking part in this year's Byte Night event, we speak to Tim Jones, CIO of Trader Media Group and publisher of autotrader.co.uk.

Describe your role in three words.

Making business happen.

How did you get to where you are today/into IT/business?

For as long as I can remember I was always into taking things apart - being a child, wanting to know how electronic things work. As soon as personal computers became affordable I had to get one and start coding. My first was a Commodore64 back when the earth cooled.

Since then I spent my school and college holidays working in a local firm who needed cheap labour on their help desk. I did a sandwich degree in communications whilst working for a few blue-chip enterprises and then gave up a well-paid job as an IT contractor to set up an online subsidiary of Trader Media for this car magazine called Auto Trader. The rest is history.

What's the biggest challenge of being a modern-day CIO?

I'm not sure about biggest challenge but the biggest asset is being as commercially aware and entrepreneurial as you are technical. Technology can transform businesses, but you have to have the confidence to ensure you get equal voice with the traditional members of a company's executives.

And the most rewarding thing?

Bringing in graduate employees and seeing them develop into fantastic professionals, and them delivering real business equity along the way.

What is the biggest mistake you think you've made? What did you learn from that experience?

I think I've made far too many mistakes over the years to think of the biggest one. But probably the thing I've learnt over the years is when you receive that email that makes your blood boil, count to 10, write a reply, then delete it and come back to the situation a day later, then pick up the phone. Work relationships are important and that aggrieved email never does you any favours.

And your greatest success?

The launch and ongoing growth and development of Auto Trader.

What one piece of advice would you give the younger you/next generation about your career/this industry?

Don't let anyone tell you something can't be done, dare to push boundaries. Don't follow the pack as there is nothing more satisfying than doing something of great value that hasn't been done before.

But always remember the industry owes you nothing - you get out what you put in.

How big a role will cloud computing play in your organisation in the next three years?

We are rolling out our own hybrid cloud at the moment. Both IaaS from a hosting perspective and SaaS from a line-of-business perspective are already making big impacts on how we do things.

What other technologies are you watching/why?

A lot of people are discussing Big Data, but to be fair there are only a few organisations that I know of with real Big Data issues in the PB range. However, for us real- time analytics on relatively large amounts of data per minute is certainly an area that can influence the retailing of high-value items like cars online over the next couple of years.

What are the most important criterion you use to make decisions that impact your business and why?

Data and analytics: test don't guess. In today's online consumer world, there is no excuse for using only your gut. You will have your own opinions, but they are just that.

Various customer segments and demographics all have different needs and user journeys. Measuring and testing is the only way to ensure you are getting the best return from your efforts.

Anything else you care to add?

Technology is a fantastic and creative industry and I feel very lucky to continue to be involved in something that, even after 20 years, I still look forward to coming in to work each day.

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