by Mark Chillingworth

Daily Mail CIO David Henderson: consumerisation and Big Data are good challenges

Aug 08, 20127 mins
Cloud ComputingIT LeadershipIT Strategy

The media industry, both globally and nationally, is in turmoil. Since the turn of the century new technology has disrupted the sector, changed business models, removed the its former position in society and as a result, the meaning and value of news is now being analysed by the Leveson Inquiry.

Under such circumstances you’d expect the CIO of a major newspaper publisher to be anything but positive, confident about the future and giving the impression of security.

Yet that is exactly what you find as you enter the office of David Henderson, CIO of A&N Media, part of the Daily Mail & General Trust (DMGT) that publish the Metro free newspaper, Mail tabloid titles and an impressive estate of online products.

“We are going global, so talent and cloud computing are very important,” Henderson says. In the modern media that seems to change shape with every financial quarter the two are intrinsically linked.

Web based tools have replaced the printing presses as the essential infrastructure of publishing.

Henderson explains that Salesforce Chatter and Facebook are now the primary tools of DMGT. Journalists tell the CIO that they get the many of their stories from Facebook.

“Journalists claim it is an essential business tool,” he says.

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That has meant a change of attitude by all senior management at DMGT to accept social media tools as both business and personal web pattern and a complete attitude change to technology has pervaded the publisher which Henderson clearly relishes.

The mantra for this CIO and his team now is to make IT as easy as possible for everyone in the organisation.

That entails embracing consumerisationwith a discount scheme that has seen widespread take up of the Apple iPad.

“Journalists have to sign on to different systems all day,” he says of the multi-platform digital distribution world of the media.

A single sign on methodology across the technology infrastructure not only makes things easier for the employee, it ensures the organisations content is delivered on all online platforms.

Henderson has had the full backing of the board with the adoption of consumerisation and his information management strategies.

He says the chief exec understands the need for simplicity and the importance of being device agnostic.

“The chairman is thinking of the big picture; and in the round you want people to be tech savvy as it is a good investment.”

The strategy is already seeing email usage decline and allowing Henderson to put his efforts into innovation for the organisation.

“The Metro came to us last year asking how we could track replenishing of their deliveries.

After a trial Henderson’s team now ensure every bundle of Metro papers has an RFID tag on them, which feeds valuable data back to the organisation.

Salesforce and Chatter are just some of the cloud computing adoptions Henderson has driven through the media company.

He is putting the organisational infrastructure onto Amazon and moving finance, HR and advertising systems into the cloud with SaaS providers.

Henderson never avoids admitting that a bold embracement of cloud and consumerisation is helped by the media being in an unregulated sector.

Although DMGT is the holder of large amounts of personal customer data that is regulated.

Henderson joins up security and modernisation with a focus on data security rather than device lock down.

“There are a lot of iPads here and between 500 and 1000 people connecting via Wifi, so rather than tightly manage those devices we track all data.

My department doesn’t just track the data as a police force, we share how the data is used, which provides management insights,” he says.

Symantec technology controls data security, but as Henderson and others find, technology can only do so much.

“The technology is quite simple, it’s getting the people and process right that is the challenge,” he says.

Henderson’s office is adorned with information security posters as testament to the culture change agenda the organisation is taking information security.

“Getting people to realise that pin codes are important and that there are no opt outs allowed.”

This is putting Henderson in a good position to tackle the latest industry buzz word, Big Data. 

“We have lots of properties like job boards and property websites and we don’t share and mine that data well enough yet. We are not getting the value from our internal data. So this year we are trying to join up parts of the operation, including the Mail Shop,” Henderson says of the business units.

Henderson produces a document detailing the A&N Technology Vision, a simple A4 sized sheet that encapsulates the challenges and opportunities that all CIOs face.

Mobile, social, Big Data, cloud, choice share the document with more doughty business terms such as rationalise, strategic vendor management, data stores, HR, finance and sales.

Lines connect it all together into a single process for the technology vision. Two items stand out on the vision document; the Sprint Suite and Ideas Factory.

“The Ideas Factory is an internal ideas board that all staff vote on projects to be trialled,” explains Henderson. “The Sprint Suite then is a full time incubation lab that takes a small number of revenue generating ideas from the Ideas Factory vote.”

Examples include the idea for an App for the cruise holiday market, as the company discovered that 41 per cent of cruise sales in the UK are sold through the Daily Mail.

“Sprint Suite has 30 people in it that can take an idea and create the finished product. That is completely different to how we have done things in the past. It is really interesting for me as a CIO as we have to be more trial and error focused and that is confidence building. It feels better to be in the debate rather than waiting to change,” Henderson says.

This new off-shoot of the technology team has entailed Henderson changing the make-up of his team.

“We have hired people that are good communicators so they can take requirements and share them. So I have beefed up the business relationship management team so that each DMGT title has a relationship manager, these now challenge each title in order to shape demand, reduce duplication and improve co-ordination across the group. “

Developers with UX skills have joined the mix and are considered the rock stars of the organisation.

Forty people have joined Henderson’s team in the last two years. Henderson is part of an overall DMGT strategy to recruit the best new graduate talent.

The CIO says DMGT wants to be seen on a par with advertiser WPP, publisher Pearson Group; broadcasters ITV and Sky in the media graduate recruitment perceptions.

“You have to have two different brains, one for long projects and the other has to be rapid, intuitive and prepared to take risks,” Henderson says of the CIO role today.

“You think you have a handle on the future, but things change very quickly. I’m saying “I don’t know” more than at any time of my life and I am comfortable with that.”