The business end of IT

The business end of IT

Foxtel CIO Robyn Elliott discusses innovation and IT investment at the media company

Foxtel CIO Robyn Elliott

Foxtel CIO Robyn Elliott


Much of the debate on how to be a great CIO today revolves around business aptitude, but innovation is equally important. Mobility is one emerging area for Foxtel, and the company has already rolled out a subscription service on the iPad, with plans for more mobile-oriented offerings shortly.

Another way Elliott is tapping into innovation is via the wider range of external solutions and technology innovations available outside its own walls. “I look at us increasingly operating in an ecosystem of partners and industry players,” she says.

“Some will have great ideas you can work with, and others will challenge the way you do things. That aspect of innovation requires a CIO to be outside their company’s walls more than what many would do. If governed in the right way, these opportunities can deliver more value to the organisation and shouldn’t be a threat.”

An example of how Foxtel is looking to find innovation is through sponsorship of the CSIRO’s new Broadband Innovation program media and entertainment category. The academic organisation has launched a competition to develop broadband apps and prototypes that demonstrate what entertainment might be in the future.

Closer to home, Foxtel’s big IT investment this year is on integration. The company acquired Austar last May and is working to combine the regional company’s set of systems with its own.

I look at us increasingly operating in an ecosystem of partners and industry players

Robyn Elliott, CIO, Foxtel

Elliott said the migration project will be completed by the end this year and is an opportunity to upgrade systems while replacing others. A new call centre front-end is being rolled out for example based on both Austar and Foxtel’s experiences, and which will be more intuitive and agent-friendly. “One of our core IT principles is simplicity,” Elliott comments.

“It helps our speed and flexibility to market as well as costs, if we only have to make a change to one system.”

The amount of data available is exponentially greater today and mining both internal and external information offers additional ways for Foxtel to improve customer interaction. “Understanding how we make it easier for the customer to find the right entertainment for them and make life easier is our core challenge, and where the data discovery piece will be focused for us,” Elliott continues.

“The executive director of marketing and I are jointly accountable for that customer experience; our customer engagement people are equally interested in additional information. Our advertisers also want more on what the value of these programs will be, and how the ads perform on all platforms and devices.

“It’s obvious now we’re in the world of the customer and the choice of what they want and what they do is critical to all businesses.”

The trick is prioritising and using the data. Elliott stresses the importance of clear business actions and plans. “There are interesting opportunities when you start combining data with information outside your boundaries as well.”

With so many business units focused on data to make better decisions, questions have been raised about how this will alter or potentially remove the need for a CIO. For Elliott, remaining relevant comes back to that blend of business insight and IT management.

“How data is used and interpreted sits more in partnership with business and business should be accountable for that and have a better understanding of it over time,” she claims.

“But the I in CIO stands for information, and you have to be able to understand the data and the integrity of it. If two executives have different interpretations of the data, the CEO will look to the CIO to determine which one’s right.”

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