Data-driven innovation challenges organizations to build not only technical architectures that leverage technologies to gain previously impossible insights into their business and customers, but also to build “trust” of the data to improve decision-making throughout all levels of the organization.
Clendenin: As CIO, what do you see as your role in driving innovation for The New York Times?
Frons: “My role, like a lot of CIOs, is both operational and strategic. What I try to do is help our business and editorial colleagues spot trends that they might not otherwise have spotted on their own. I consider it my job to point those things out to the other executives at The Times whether they are on the business side or the news side. Then drive and get those projects green lighted and built.”
Clendenin: How do you spot trends?
Frons: “We made a pretty significant investment in business intelligence and a big data facility at the company because historically The New York Times, like a lot of media companies, has not been particularly metrics aware or metrics-driven in its decision making process. Certainly, we did traditional financial analysis and ROI, but we’ve never really systematically used data to improve the user experience.”
Big data is about taking vast amounts of information from multiple sources and then slicing and dicing the information in a way that provides valuable insight not possible just a few years ago. Why are we seeing the growth of big data initiatives today? Well, one of the main reasons for the growth and success of big data is its “Nexus of Forces” cohort – cloud computing.
Clendenin: Are you seeing more of your IT investment dollars move toward cloud computing in the coming years?
Frons: “Our cloud budget has grown pretty significantly and it’s going to keep growing as we keep collecting and computing against more and more data. We build tools that give our internal users access to this data and allow them to compute against and analyze it. We’re going to be bigger consumers of cloud offerings as opposed to traditional on-premise data warehouses.”
Clendenin: What has caused you to re-think the way in which you approach your business?
Frons: “The traditional newspaper is something that you wrote for your readers. Websites and apps are something that you do with them – we are very attuned to that throughout everything we do.”
Clendenin: What technology trends are top of mind for you now?
Frons: “On the consumer side, I believe we are still year or two away from the wearable computing revolution that is coming. And, it is probably coming on your wrist – not your head. I think wearable computing is something we will need to get our arms around in the media business.”
For those that may not be clear on what is meant by “wearable computing”, an example that you might recognize today are the many fitness tracking devices hitting the market – from the Nike FuelBand to the Fitbit Flex. These wearable devices track one’s daily activity level to enable the user to make data-driven decisions about their health throughout the day to achieve a desired personal goal. Innovation often starts in the consumer world (i.e. the rumored Apple iWatch) and will work its way into the business world over time.
Yes, we are truly in the digital era.