Tech Visions: New media floods firms' networks

How will CIOs cope?

How will CIOs cope?

Experts are forecasting an important role in the enterprise for new media data applications. But for many CIOs that future has already arrived, argues Howard Greenfield.

As content from iPods, TV and websites starts to invade enterprise routers and servers, pundits continue to underestimate the impact social media is already having on CIOs and IT managers everywhere.

Last December I wrote about the economic impact of this convergence and the technical and business disruption that occurs when social media is deployed across the corporate network. I discussed how the IT services market will be worth nearly $1tr by 2011. The once separate domains of IT and media have become intertwined and now form part of this massive spend.

So much for the economic impact. But what about the challenge that audio, image and video pose to IT departments around the world?

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Talking to managers with everyday first-hand experience of this migration process, it's clear there is a real gap between the theory and practice of taming these applications for corporate advantage.

James Robertson, director of Smalltalk applications at Cincom, actively publishes his groups' technical updates by blog, podcast, screencast and video.

The trend according to Robertson is that smaller IT departments, pulled in many directions, won't be able to service all the new content applications.

He believes it will be tempting for groups to run their own projects on the cheap over new third-party services. "IT departments are going to be surprised by what companies like Amazon are doing with their web services," says Robertson referring to Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3), Simple DB, and Elastic Compute Cloud.

"It's very conceivable that if you have your own business unit budget, you can start deploying projects bypassing your IT department completely by deploying them to the cloud."

With $76bn in revenues and 250 sites worldwide, Proctor & Gamble (P&G) is the epitome of traditional corporate practices. But the culture is changing fast and new media is a big part of that.

Younger or younger-minded employees are initiating change by bringing new information devices and tools to work that push the limits of traditional computing environments.

Laurie Heltsley, P&G Director of Strategic Projects, is responsible for various media-related initiatives across the organisation and reports direct to the CIO office. She says media is forcing P&G to reinvent its IT infrastructure even though it is still wrestling with the business case.

Telepresence is a hot topic at P&G. HD video and spatial audio developed direct with Cisco is transforming how employees worldwide connect with each other.

"It also allows us to scale important individuals," says Heltsley. "So their influence is felt more broadly and quickly. The ability to travel the world and still kiss the kids goodnight is priceless."

She says employees are making use of Facebook, MySpace and YouTube creating a culture that exploits the new communication and connection features.

ERP specialist SAP is also concentrating on media management. Locating content and identifying ownership and rights is increasingly important, according to Julie Stoughton, SAP director of industry solutions marketing, media and entertainment.

"There are fundamental issues that need to be solved before all this media on the network can generate new channels to market," says Stoughton.

She adds: "Bandwidth, efficiencies of routing content, and caching are key parts of content distribution. But if you don't know what you have and how it can be used you're not going to get that far."

Stoughton uses the example of Lionsgate Entertainment's acquisition of Artisan Entertainment. As is often the case, there may be 15 different departments, with new systems managing all this in spreadsheet format. The first step is understanding who owns what internally. "What do I have internally?" sounds like a simple question but there are so many sub-questions to: "What do I own?".

The ultimate solution, the killer application of the future, is not a single application, says Stoughton. "It is a series of different ones working together in an integrated process that tracks digital media though its entire lifecycle."

P&G's Heltsley thinks good things will emerge from the present confusing picture surrounding new media data applications. "There is chaos before it is viewed as productive information," she says.

Howard Greenfield, president of Go Associates, is a digital media strategist, columnist, and co-author of IPTV & Internet Video, Focal Press, 2007.