“The honeymoon period is over for me,” says Andrew Lam-Po-Tang, CIO of the newspaper and magazine conglomerate Fairfax Media, which owns the Sydney Morning Herald, Melbourne Age, Dominion Post, stuff.co.nz, and CIO New Zealand. Six months into his new role, Lam-Po-Tang is undertaking a transformation project that will see Fairfax become the largest Google Apps for Business user in the Southern Hemisphere. His announcement last month that all divisions would be using the cloud productivity suite by November comes amidst news of massive layoffs at Fairfax, which will see around 1900 jobs lost over the next two years.
Lam-Po-Tang says in tough economic times tools to maximise productivity and increase staff collaboration are important. Comments from the executive team, and feedback from yearly staff surveys presented to him on his arrival showed a desire for greater collaborative tools, he says.
“We found that the staff were dissatisfied by the tools we have given them. We also looked at the average age of our PC fleet, and this threw up some interesting conclusions as well.”
Lam-Po-Tang says Google’s suite will require less onsite infrastructure, and save costs on licensing fees for Microsoft Office products. In New Zealand, NZ Post Group is another Google Apps for Business customer. CIO Miles Fordyce says he believes the Google product is effective, but says there were challenges in implementing it due to an organisational culture that does not yet support collaborative workflows.
Rivalry among Fairfax mastheads in Australia was highlighted early this year with a leaked video of CEO Greg Hywood calling for greater unity among staff in a period of change.
But Lam-Po-Tang says that in most areas of the business, collaboration will be successful, and is already happening. Fairfax by its nature as a news organisation has a collaborative culture, he says, and initiatives such as Fairfax of the Future (the company’s transformation project) will shore up any shortcomings by putting a greater emphasis on digital news telling and collaboration across titles.
“In this instance technology is following the behaviour,” says Lam-Po-Tang. “We’re a media business and we have a huge digital footprint, and if you spend any time with those teams you will see they are constantly engaged in very high bandwidth collaboration.”
As CIO of the overall Fairfax Media company, Lam-Po-Tang oversees the high-level IT strategy of the New Zealand division. He conducts a weekly one-hour videoconference with Nigel Bailey, New Zealand group technology director, but says this is more of an opportunity to catch up on on the latest news from this side of theTasman rather than an attempt to micromanage Bailey.
Lam-Po-Tang says in many instances, especially in collaboration, virtualisation and BYOD, Fairfax New Zealand leads Australia in implementation. He says in those instances these meetings give him and his team vital information for applying new initiatives in Australia.
One example is a pilot programme at the Waikato Times, where sales staff are using iPads to display ad opportunities to clients, and update sales information while off-site. This seemingly small project required a lot of back end support, however. The insights gained were shared with the Australian part of the company. “Within a month we spun a similar pilot,” says Lam-Po-Tang.
Sim Ahmed (@simantics) is a reporter for CIO.
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