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CIO guides Bauer Media through Nine separation

Adam Bender | April 3, 2014
IT veteran Simon Wheeler has tried to balance operational efficiency with technology innovation.

IT veteran Simon Wheeler said he was keen to take on more strategic responsibilities when a major acquisition opened the position of CIO at Bauer Media.

Bauer Media publishes more than 80 magazines in Australia, including Woman's Day, TV Week, Cosmopolitan and Top Gear Australia.

Wheeler, who previously served as CTO and group IT manager for Nine Entertainment, became CIO of Bauer after Nine sold its publishing arm to the media company in late 2012. The split of Nine created two new CIO positions--one at Bauer and another at the broadcasting arm, Channel Nine.

Wheeler comes from a technical background, having worked in IT for the last twenty years, and said he was excited about having additional responsibilities as a CIO.

"I was in operational roles for many years, so I'm a fairly new CIO," he told CIO Australia. "The role's obviously becoming less about IT and more about business and strategy, which is what I was hoping."

He said the successful CIO must combine business and technical skills.

"You need to be a strategic thinker. You need to have good financial and commercial background and people management [skills]. But you definitely need to be able to promote technology into the business and convert those business requirements into profound technology offerings."

In a recent interview, former Zurich Financial Services Australia CIO Bobby Lehane said that he believed the CIO should not be known as the company's head technologist. However, Wheeler disagreed with that notion.

"Our business relies on technology a huge amount," he said. "They need to go to someone to ask the questions and they need someone to come back with suggestions."

Wheeler reports to the CFO rather than having a seat in the boardroom, but he said it hasn't held him back. Bauer is a small and nimble organisation with a "fairly flat structure" that is "very open door," he said.

"Everyone who needs to get involved gets involved."

Wheeler said his central challenge as the CIO of a major media company is to balance operational efficiency with technology innovation. "It's the maintaining and reducing costs on the one side so we can innovate and invest in the other side of the business."

Driving the technology investment strategy requires commoditising, simplifying and reducing the costs of traditional back-office IT as much as possible, he said.

Like many in the publishing industry, Bauer is driving its business into the digital space, he said.

"The whole print and subscription paper-based business is never going to die, but it's certainly not going to make us lots of money anymore," he said.

The digital focus has significantly increased demands on computing bandwidth and storage, he said.

 

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