Q&A: Chris Taylor, CIO at NI

Mark Samuels speaks to News International's CIO about the changing nature of modern tech leadership.

"I've had a fun career but I've never seen things change as quickly as they have at this business as they have in the past 18 months," he says. Taylor's role now is to continue helping the business to transform through the use of digital technology. Luckily, he is positioned at the fulcrum of change.

Consumerisation is already happening, whether you like it or not. Get on board and help drive digital change or you could risk your IT becoming rapidly out-of-date.

Taylor works alongside News Corp CTO Paul Cheesbrough, who was formerly News International CIO. Cheesbrough is helping to split the business into two separate entities based around TV and film, and print and digital. As we talk in News International's Wapping headquarters, Taylor points to a roadmap on his wall that plans out the immediate digital future of the business.

"It's stacked full of programmes," he says, referring to the wall chart. "There's so much willingness to invest in IT to help drive change. Our challenge here is to deliver to the business's demands." His first priority is to help Cheesbrough with strategic planning activities and to create the types of cross-business collaborations that make sure good ideas in one area of the organisation can be seeded somewhere else.

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His second area of focus is the creation of digital products. News International's titles are being launched on tablet devices and Taylor is investigating various operating platforms. "There has been a lack of standardisation but HTML5 is allowing content to be created once and pushed to multiple platforms," he says. "As an organisation, we don't just want to be a consumer of technology. We're also leading the development of digital products."

One key area for product development includes News International's commitment to a media pay wall for online customers. Taylor is keen to investigate how cloud-based technologies can be used to authenticate users and provide quick access to content. "We need something that's fast and scalable," he says.

Taylor's third priority area is a major programme to transform the newsroom. He's been given a blank sheet to create a state-of-the art newsroom, with specialist use of consumer IT. News International has introduced an 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 and support for the continued development of IT consumerisation has come from technology specialist Jigsaw24.

Another of Taylor's innovations comes in the form of a dedicated room near the company canteen. Inspired by Apple's Genius Bar, News International has introduced a technology area that allows employees to play with gadgets and apps from various suppliers. "Trying to get your staff to engage with a MacBook is the not really a giant leap forwards," he says, suggesting that most employees will already have access to smart computing technology outside the workplace.

Taylor is not just an Apple evangelist. He encourages other CIOs to take an open approach, to move beyond the traditional IT suppliers and to think about innovative firms, like Amazon, Google and Salesforce. "Consumerisation is already happening, whether you like it or not," says Taylor. "Get on board and help drive digital change or you could risk your IT becoming rapidly out-of-date."

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