by Mark Chillingworth

Jora Gill swaps CTO for CDO role at The Economist

Jun 13, 20143 mins
CareersIT LeadershipMedia and Entertainment Industry

Jora Gill has moved from a career as a CTO to become the first Chief Digital Officer (CDO) of the well respected business newspaper The Economist. Gill told CIO UK the new role is not simply the adoption of the latest fashionable job title; his remit at The Economist differs greatly from his responsibilities at scientific publisher Elsevier and ratings agency Standard and Poor’s.

“My objective is revenue, strategy, customer loyalty and the brand,” he said in an interview.

“The difference is that the CTO role was more about delivering products, this is still about delivering products, but there is a greater focus on strategic decisions so I am working with marketing, sales and editorial to create a blueprint for the digital business.

“That means working on Apps, the web and how we integrate our print products. Importantly it is using analytics to get closer to the customer. You need those windows of analytics, testing, social and an attitude of ‘let’s experiment’. So it is a different way of looking at the technology leadership role. In recent years the customer for technology leaders had been internal.

“At The Economist we will have more of a software company mentality to the business and learn from the likes of Amazon, eBay and Google,” he said.

Asked why the CDO role has come into being and why the above responsibilities differ from CIO roles Gill said: “The problem that CIOs have is that they have to wear multiple hats and in recent years they have had to focus on cost containment and so have become experts on managing budgets and not on innovation. Innovation has in many cases been outsourced to consultancies. Now organisations want to be closer to the customer they are finding they cannot outsource innovation. In my role at The Economist I do not deal with networks or infrastructure.

To some observers Gill has taken a smaller role leaving scientific information giant Elsevier for The Economist, but for Gill the motivation was to get closer to the customer.

“It depends how close you want to be to the product. I got to a point of being more of a general manager with a large team at Elsevier. Some CIOs enjoy managing large groups, others like to be involved in products and customers, but you can’t really do both,” he said of his career direction.

“The Economist wanted someone to look at product development and execution,” he said of moving from a CTO to CDO.

“Elsevier are leaders at what they are doing, delivering personalised content at the point of use and Standard and Poor’s were doing SOA before everyone else and are not afraid of small failures,” he said of his experiences he brings to the newspaper industry.