by Byron Connolly

A look back at last year’s CIO50: #17 Christopher Johnson, 20th Century Fox

Jul 06, 2017
CareersIT LeadershipRetail Industry

CIO Australia is running its second annual CIO50 list which recognises Australia’s top 50 IT most innovative and effective IT chiefs who are influencing change across their organisations.

This year’s top 50 CIO list will be judged by some of Australia’s leading IT and digital minds. Our illustrious judging panel in 2017 includes the Australian government’s former chief digital officer and now Stone Chalk ‘expert in residence’ Paul Shetler; and former Microsoft Australia MD and now CEO, strategic innovation at Suncorp, Pip Marlow.

Nominate for the 2017 CIO50

We take a look back at last year’s top 25. Today, we profile Christopher Johnson, Asia-Pacific IT director at 20th Century Fox who slotted in at number 17.

Read Christopher’s story below:

#17: Christopher Johnson, Asia-Pacific IT director, 20th Century Fox

With a mandate to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of collaboration between global staff and external business partners, 20thCentury Fox has successfully migrated all of the data created by its international subsidiaries to a prominent cloud storage provider.

In excess of 50TB of information, located on 28 file servers in 27 cities across Asia-Pacific, Europe, and Latin America, has been permanently migrated to the cloud in 2016.

And it was 20thCentury Fox’s Asia-Pacific IT director, Christopher Johnson who drove this project for the multinational organisation. This was a break in tradition at Fox. Rather than lead a global IT initiative from its LA studio, with territory-led localised implementation, the Asia-Pacific operation was asked to lead the outcome for all international territories.

“This was an exercise in broad-scale change management, as opposed to a technology deployment,” Johnson says.

“We have developed a particular maturity in this space, understanding that IT cannot introduce new solutions, particularly at such a global scale, without acknowledging and responding to the fact that we are fundamentally changing the way in which our people work.”

This project impacted more than 4,000 business employees, essentially rewriting the process for information authoring, storing and collaborating. Training and adoption across the board were key to its success, as Fox business teams – releasing more than 20 new titles every year – have very little downtime.

“Traditionally, we would have divided this type of initiative up among the three super-geographies (EMEA, LatAm, APAC), collaborating where possible, however, inevitably duplicating effort.

“In this instance, we chose to lead the global initiative from the APAC region, concurrently coordinating teams across four continents with the assistance of carefully selected business champions. It was a break from tradition and one that really payed off,” says Johnson.

“Prior to completing this program of work, our cloud provider hadn’t seen such a complex migration delivered across four continents with such minimal disruption to a business and record levels of adoption”.

A multinational giant with no boundaries 20thCentury Fox has become a boundary-less organisation as it works with partners to release content, says Johnson.

“The ‘daily friction’ often caused by legacy IT systems such as on premise file servers, has essentially been removed with this new model of business self-help,” he says.

“Backup processes, storage arrays, file servers and in-office tape libraries have all been decommissioned across four continents, reducing overall cost and risk, whilst allowing focus to remain on ensuring robust internet and networking/security solutions are in place to support the cloud model.”

Several of the organisation’s core business applications are now making full use of APIs in the cloud storage platform. As such, staff have ready access to what they want, wherever they are located, from a broad number of devices, says Johnson.

“This is nothing revolutionary when implemented in one or two businesses, but significant when viewed in the context of a multinational as big, fast-moving and complex as Fox,” he says.

An innovation focus

For Johnson, innovation is about creating differentiation to drive business growth while delivering a tangible gain in efficiency. At 20thCentury Fox, Johnson partnered with the senior vice-president for the Home Entertainment businesses in Australia and Japan, to deliver multiple sessions centred on furthering innovating thinking.

Using a mature, packaged innovation methodology, Johnson has held multiple workshops across IT and business teams over the past 12 months, focused on increasing the capability to think innovatively, solving real-world business problems including go-to-market strategies, how to maximise return from franchise titles, and the role of technology in improving business efficiencies.

“As a key member of the executive team, we IT leaders are well-positioned to help drive the establishment and ongoing nurturing of the innovation process,” he says.

“That’s the key role that I have played at Fox; to stand up and be asked by the SVP of our AP Home Entertainment business to lead the facilitation and growth in innovative thinking across his entire business, is a pretty big pat on the back.”

The innovation methodologies are now common place and are especially effective in bringing teams together, says Johnson.

“We have a common language and approach to thinking outside the box and IT is being called upon to assist with the facilitation of workshops and ongoing training. With this role, my team is ensuring that we remain tightly integrated with our business.”