Yaros, though, believed the expansion of IT's influence was inevitable. "As things move away from physical media and more into bits and bytes, IT can't help but be in the middle of that," he says. "We move bits and bytes. We become the glue. We become the enablers of what this industry is all about."
Despite a cost-cutting committee formed in April 2003—which would not publicly discuss any of its specific mandates—Yaros was encouraged to continue moving ahead with more than 100 IT projects simultaneously, all designed to help business units cut costs. The projects ranged from a $20,000 application called cineStor, which archives marketing's old trailers and commercials in an online digital system instead of closets stuffed with dusty VHS tapes, to a $6 million (and growing) multiproject digital media initiative, or DMI.
Faced with this unwieldy web of effort, Yaros converted "beatles" into senior vice presidents, deputy CIOs whom he could rely on to communicate each business unit's needs and find the best ways to integrate that unit's projects with SPE as a whole. "Nobody took the view that we're just one, big, happy company," Yaros says.
While an IT credibility gap remains, Yaros, before he left, was able to improve IT's accountability to the business. For example, now each project must clear a number of financial hurdles along the way, unlike previously, when no projections were made about how IT efforts might impact the bottom line. Now at least one business unit must "sponsor," or guarantee against its own budget, each new IT project. "We wouldn't take on an initiative unless we could demonstrate that it's got at least a three-year payback," Yaros said in an interview several months before his ouster. With the exception of long-term, strategic projects, proposed IT systems now move through a cost/benefit analysis—Yaros called it the "show me the money" phase—that results in "greenlighting," much the same way film and television projects must do.
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