by Chloe Dobinson

BMJ Chief Digital Officer Sharon Cooper Q&A – Retaining IT talent and increasing creativity at BMJ

Oct 24, 2016
CareersMedia and Entertainment Industry

BMJChief Digital Officer Sharon Cooper recently described a hybrid cloud migration as one of the “complex highlights” during her time at the medical medical journal and publishing organisation.

Cooper, previously the organisation’s CTO, a 2016 CIO Summit speaker and a high-flyer in the 2016 CIO 100 who is driving a cultural transformation at the organisation, spoke to CIO UK on how she is retaining IT talent, the CDO duties, and increasing the creativity for future projects at BMJ. [See also: Chief Digital Officer job description and role – What are the responsibilities of the CDO?]

What keeps you motivated as a Chief Digital Officer? The constant move of technology and trying to understand what would work for our organisation – and what is nice, but not relevant for us.

How are you bringing creativity to your team at BMJ? The DevOps culture that we have instilled throughout the whole organisation has helped our digital team to become more creative as we have the IT team work in the office with everyone else now. The tech guys were originally working separately from the rest of the team, but they understand the importance of working together now, and are helping to share ideas about services and improvements we can make. We now have conversation among our teams, rather than emails between people, and we have people working closely together to ensure each project goes smoothly.

Where do you see the role of a Chief Digital Officer in the next 12 months? I’d be tempted to say that if all companies were digital throughout, then there wouldn’t be a CDO role, but as I think it means different things to different companies, then it will still be a change agent, wherever it sits in the organisation, whether it’s called a CDO or something else.

How does a CDO think – what is your day-to-day strategy? I can only speak for myself, but I would say my brain is full of considering opportunity, but trying to filter that through the lens of the organisation and how it thinks and acts – knowing how to get things done, wherever you work, has got to be the key part of any day to day strategy.

How are you retaining tech and digital talent for your organisation? As with any company that is building tech applications and services, there is a significant amount of churn. However, we make sure that we hire the best talent available to us and we get them to buy into the company culture in the early days. All new talent that we hire will spend six months working on third line support, as we believe this is integral to our business and it provides them with a solid understanding of what we do and how our products work. This then enables them to build better products and services for us when they start to work in our sprint team, or on projects for our clients.

What keeps you awake at night as a Chief Digital Officer? I sleep pretty well, but I think the key things are how to keep up with the continual change, understanding how you fund continual change, when more traditional organisations are used to ebb and flow of demands for investment. The questions of “didn’t you ask for some money for that last year?” and “why do you need more?” are always things to consider when you can see constant improvement is required.

What does the future hold for BMJ? A lot more change. The next focus we have at BMJ is content creation in a truly digital environment and how we achieve that. We know that business models are changing all the time, so we want to be able to provide a service which can support new business models and generate interesting and relevant content to it.