Time Warner’s CIO reflects on first 100 days

Peter High is a contributor for Forbes.com.

Bill Krivoshik, CIO of Time Warner. Credit: Forbes

Bill Krivoshik, CIO of Time Warner. Credit: Forbes

Bill Krivoshik has been a CIO since the mid-1990s, with stints at such esteemed companies as GE Capital, AIG, Citigroup, Thomson Financial, and Marsh & McLennan.  He has been the global chief information multiple times over, and has been the first to hold that title at multiple companies to boot. He has each of those distinctions at Time Warner, a company he joined just over two years ago.

Krivoshik says that the key to a successful first 100 days and beyond is to focus on building relationships at the new company, develop quick-wins for the rest of the organization, and to contemplate people, process, and technologies changes early in one’s tenure, among other insights he shares herein.

(To listen to an extended interview with Bill Krivoshik from the Forum on World Class IT podcast series, visit this link. This is the third article in this series in Forbes. To read the first two articles, please visit this link. To read future interviews with CIOs of companies such as Intel, Viacom, AmerisourceBergen, Amtrak, the American Cancer Society, Cox Communciations, and J.Crew, please click the “Follow” link above.)

Peter High: Bill, you joined Time Warner as the CIO in July of 2011. What key priorities did you set in your first 100 days in the role?

Bill Krivoshik: There were several areas that I had to work on when I joined Time Warner in July of 2011.  First, the enterprise CIO role was a new role for Time Warner, so I had to make sure that there was agreement among our senior executives about the scope and focus of the role, particularly in our goals for the first twelve to eighteen months.  Second, being new to Time Warner, I made the rounds to our various business divisions – HBO, Time Inc., Turner, and Warner Bros. – so that I could learn about their businesses and how to best leverage their expertise and provide them with business benefit from our enterprise initiatives.  And third, not only was I new to Time Warner, but I was also new to the industry.  So I had to find ways to get myself smart on the issues and opportunities that our industry is facing.

PH: How did you think about the breakdown between people (making sure you had the right team, adding new blood and talent to the team), process (adding new processes, establishing common processes, cutting through the bureaucracy of older processes) and technologies (setting standards, consolidating, etc.)?

BK: It’s fitting that you choose those three areas in your question: people, process, and technology.  Any technology initiative needs to get all three of them right to add value to the organization.  Again, since this was a new role, I needed to understand what capabilities we already had in the business divisions, how those capabilities aligned with our enterprise goals, and where we would need to supplement them.  For example, I quickly found out that we have a lot of talented technology executives in our business units.  One of our current enterprise initiatives is to build an IT infrastructure shared services organization.  I discovered that while we had a lot of strong infrastructure executives in our various businesses, we didn’t have anyone who had led an enterprise wide infrastructure shared service organization.  So we hired someone with experience in creating and running large infrastructure shared services to work with our business units to assess the business case and develop the execution plan.

Obviously, looking at enterprise services will also require a close look at our existing processes and technology.  Processes and the supporting technologies may be optimal at the business unit level, but sub-optimal when viewed across the enterprise.  In some cases it will make sense to do things one way across the organization rather than four different ways.  Standardization is necessary to get the benefit of our size and scale.

PH: How did you balance strategic planning versus tactical, day-to-day execution?

BK: That’s always a challenge, in either the first days in a new role, or even in a role you’ve been in for a while.  You need to define the overarching strategy so that the organization begins moving in the strategic direction in a concerted manner, but you also need to get some “quick wins” on the board.  As a senior executive you need to prove your value quickly and begin building your personal credibility and the organizational credibility. This is critical so that the strategy is embraced and has a real chance of succeeding.

PH: Was there a process you used in order to develop some “quick-wins” for you and your team?

BK: It’s probably going to sound overly simple, but I went around and asked our business executives and our technology leaders what they thought we were doing well and where we needed to improve.  I’ve often found that organizations typically have smart people who know where the opportunities are, just that they might not have all the resources – people or money – or the authority to make the changes.  If you get a little lucky you can find a few quick wins that are easier to implement and that will solve some real pain points for the organization.

PH: What key performance indicators did you keep if any?

BK: During the first 100 days I really didn’t focus on key performance indicators for enterprise level initiatives, except to understand what metrics are important to the businesses.  At a tactical level, the corporate operations needed to continue running well, the corporate systems needed to perform within their SLAs, and as we plan for our enterprise services, developing the right set of KPIs will be critical.  During the first 100 days it was more about understanding where the opportunities were and beginning to develop a plan to address those areas.

PH: You have been an It executive a variety of major corporations.  In addition to your current post at Time Warner, you also held CIO or CTO positions at Marsh & McLennan, Thomson Financial, AIG, Citigroup, and GE Capital. As you reflect on the first 100 days in these posts, what has been common among the plans you have set, and what has been unique, and why?

BK: There are several things that have been common in my first 100 days at those corporations:

  • getting to know the business model with its challenges and its opportunities;
  • getting to know the organization – who are the important decision makers and what their challenges are;
  • finding out where the talent is in the technology organization;
  • and trying to get smarter about the industry.

During the first 100 days I’ve often started the process of understanding the total investment in technology and operations.  In some cases, such as when I became the CTO at Thomson Financial, the organization was centralized enough that the information was readily available.  In other cases, the IT and operations organizations were so decentralized that it took many months to collect that information.   Each new role also brought unique challenges, based on industry, market, and business unit challenges and opportunities.  But I found that even with the unique challenges, there is a common set of tools to figure out what the issues are and how to move forward.  The most important tool for the first 100 days for me has been to spend a lot of time listening to the people in the organization.

PH: You were the first ever enterprise-level  CIO at Marsh & McLennan, and the first evenr .  How does the first 100 days change when you do not have a predecessor?

BK: I’m also the first enterprise CIO at Time Warner today and – about fifteen years ago – was the first enterprise CIO at AIG.  So I’ve had a few chances to try and figure it out.  Without a predecessor, the first 100 days can be a bit more challenging since the organization is trying to understand not just who you are, but also why they might even need the role.  That makes it a bit more challenging, but it also makes it more fun.  I find it more fun to help define the role and really own your future.  Of course, that only works if you make it work and show the organization that you are providing real value and that the new role really was needed.

Peter High is the President of Metis Strategy, a business and IT advisory firm. He is also the author of World Class IT: Why Businesses Succeed When IT Triumphs, and the moderator of the Forum on World Class IT podcast series. Follow him on Twitter @WorldClassIT.

Tags: Business,Business Management,Technology