Ed Capaldi studied European Business and Technology including lean manufacturing, just in time, how to design a factory such as a car assembly plant and how to manage supply chains in addition to studying robotics and programming. After obtaining his degree he was determined to use technology to bring competitive advantage to businesses but as luck would have it, he found himself in the leisure industry and soon running a big jazz club. Two years later he moved to a private telecommunications company where he helped change its direction and portfolio of products and services. At a later time Ed moved to Vistorm which was then an ASP (now part of HP) and from there to Principality Bank in Cardiff where he ran the IT infrastructure. Eight years ago Ed moved to Al Nisr Publishing (whose best known publication is Gulf News the most widely read English language newspaper in the Gulf) where he has full responsibility to information technology.
CIO2CIO: Many of the CIOs interview work for conglomerates, large multi industry family businesses, they have to deal with wide range of requirements and a multitude of industry specific solutions. Do you consider working for a pure-play business to be an advantage? Is it something that makes your job easier or harder? Ed: Yes Al Nisr Publishing is pure-play media and publishing company but still we’ve got a bricks and mortar business which is printing the newspaper, this is very much like a traditional manufacturing business, an asset intensive business with production lines, supply chains and production planning. Conversely we operate the number one English language news website in the region, the Gulf News website. I can say that it is a completely different business; it is dynamic, agile and virtual. Of course being in multiple types of businesses is harder especially that both of them are 24 hour operations. For the paper, editing in the morning and printing at night while for the web, editing and publishing all day round.
CIO2CIO: In your view what are the biggest challenges facing CIOs today? Budgeting, getting the right talent, dealing with all the new waves of technology or getting to sit at the top table? Ed: I think the biggest challenge is getting to move away from the business-IT alignment discussion. That should have never happened in the first place. In any business there is HR, there is sales and there is IT. They are elements of the business, each has its own role and naturally they operate differently. The big challenge for me is making the business understand IT’s capabilities and its value add and to get IT to understand the elements, processes and priorities of the business in order to be able to add value. The other challenge I suppose, is people, it is not so much getting people, it is maximizing their performance. Another challenge is of course dealing with vendors; they always refer to you as partner and talk about having strategic relationships with their key customers but in many cases when you need them they don’t come through. For example we are planning for a major project next year to virtualize our infrastructure, hundreds of HP servers running Microsoft. We know that Microsoft and HP have a strategic engagement around virtualization, we asked them to provide quality assurance for this project. Well the people we spoke to did not even know about the Microsoft-HP strategic engagement around virtualization, let alone being able to offer us any meaningful response. Vendors need to reconsider their customer relationships in this part of the world.
CIO2CIO: Tell us some more about maximizing performance, this seems to be one of your favorite topics Ed: Yes it is, we follow the Rockefeller Habits, that’s a methodology for business growth. So instead of trying to work on too many goals we focus on just three to five per quarter, those support the full year’s goals, and those are aligned to ourBig Hairy Audacious Goal "BHAG" as defined by Jim Collins in his book Built to Last. Our BHAG is simply to be the best IT department in the Middle East. We measure that by having extreme customer satisfaction, that drives our performance. And this means we want to be the best in everything we do, project management, vendor management, customer support, up time and so on. In order to achieve great performance we really make sure everyone gets clear objectives and metrics. As Steve Ballmer says “What gets measured gets done”. Everyone has very clear KPIs that roll up and eventually align with those of the business, we measure them annually, and we make them more challenging every year. For example last year we has 120 P1 and P2 support incidents, this year we are not going to have more than 36 of those. In order to achieve this, we have to change or improve the way we do many thinks within IT but one thing is for sure, everyone on the team is fully committed to this number and is determined to play his/her role in meeting this objective.
CIO2CIO: There must be a project that’s very close to your heart, the project you’re most proud of. Can you talk to use about it? Ed: I think the biggest achievement or my favorite project was the whole ethos that we built with the support teams, how we all now share a common vision; we want to be the best. The project really is about making sure that everyone is on board and is fully committed to providing the best support to our internal customers, so that our customers can be free to develop and to innovate products and services for their customers.
CIO2CIO: As a CIO, how do you deal with the successive waves of new technology? When do you wait and when do you chose to become an early adopter? Ed: Again, remember that we’ve got these two different business models, the bricks and mortar printing business and the emerging digital business. In general our policy is not to be on the bleeding edge simply because new or less mature technology tends to fail more frequently creating more incidents and reducing our customer satisfaction rating. The second reason is that in this part of the world vendors don’t tend to be able to deliver great customer support, we run a 24x7 business and can’t afford down time, so we stick to mature reliable technology that can be supported. We also use services from Gartner to help us navigate the technology horizon and select what is right for us.
CIO2CIO: Some of the big vendors like IBM, Oracle and HP now have very broad product lines hence they changed the way they talk to customers. You used to have one account manager to deal with a customer, now it is 3 or 4. Does that bother you? Ed: Yes it does and we spoke to some of our strategic vendors about that, I simply want to have one account manager to talk to. He gets to understand our business and the way we work. Having multiple account managers is bad for the relationship.
CIO2CIO: Business Intelligence is always one of the top three CIO priorities but when you look at what projects are running and how budgets are allocated you do not see much BI activity. Why is that? Ed: Here is why, how many managers know what are the key pieces of information they need in order to make the better decisions, I don’t think many do. In fact many managers brag about making decision based on intuition. Interestingly the recession or the economic slowdown has forced managers to take this issue much more seriously and that is why BI projects are resurfacing again.
CIO2CIO: How do you see social networking in the enterprise? Ed: That’s one of my favorite topics. In one word, it is disruptive but for all the best reasons. How do I see it used, I see it used as the way to empower the workforce and break down the traditional managed hierarchy. It also provides managers with a tool that helps them understand better the pulse of the people in the organization.
CIO2CIO: What would your advice be to new CIOs, young CIOs? Ed: Listen to the business managers, find out what their pains are, build your team, stand up for what you believe is right, don’t be scared of making decisions and remember that there’s nothing worse than procrastination.
Al Nisr Publishing IT Profile
ERP: JD Edwards possibly moving to SAP Major application: SAP IS-Media Database: Microsoft SQL Server Servers: HP Networking: Cisco