Making a Successful CIO Transition

Mark Katz discusses the myriad challenges and opportunities he faced as he changed industries and jobs to become the new CIO of ASCAP.

Success, Failure sign

ASCAP was in the middle on a major infrastructure project when Katz joined the organization. The large-scale project required spending a great amount of time with hardware vendors. “As a new CIO, I initially had to spend a lot of time with my managers to understand the applications and the infrastructure. They were extremely knowledgeable and critical to my success. The vendors did not provide any off-the-shelf packages, so everything is custom-built for every performance-rights organization in business, of which ASCAP is the largest in the world.” Not unique to the music industry, many vendors tried to sell one-stop shopping solutions to Katz without fully understanding ASCAP’s needs. “Vendors wasted a lot of my time,” Katz says. “I now rely on industry sources, like Gartner, and trusted colleagues in the IT industry. Also, in moving to a new industry, it is critically important to avail one’s self of industry conferences as well.”

In terms of managing his time in a new company, Katz concentrated on controlling the number of meetings he attended, as well as effectively managing each meeting. “Too many meetings were break/fix discussions that turned into open-ended design and ‘solutions on the spot’ meetings,” says Katz. “I empower managers to work with their teams on issues like this, and I focus my IT meetings as decision-making meetings. You have to pay attention to the meeting agenda, and focus on what you want out of the meeting.” Katz found that these steps have led to having more time to meet with business users and his direct reports. “I have a weekly one-on-one meeting with my directs, as well as a weekly management team meeting. In addition, I have quarterly town hall meetings, with speakers from the business, as well as for providing updates on the IT vision for the company.”

In meeting with the business, clear and constant communication is key, Katz notes. “Explaining the justifications and benefits of moving the data center was a major priority. You have to spend time on the strategic level, not down in the weeds. You have to understand their thinking processes and what their issues are. Speaking the same language as the business is important. Explaining infrastructure improvements without providing examples of productivity and dollar savings is meaningless.”

Lastly, Katz suggests that “you have to take time to understand the people and the culture, before making change. Getting buy-in, and alignment, and learning when and how to say no. And getting the right people in the right roles.” Katz notes that as a fairly accomplished keyboard player himself, he has a great deal of passion to ensure that the 470,000 songwriter and composer members of ASCAP are treated with the utmost care and respect, and that ASCAP’s technology platform enables it to remain the leading performance-rights organization in the world.

About the Author

Pat O'Connell is the founder and president of The Conall Group, a consulting and research firm, and an adjunct professor at Columbia University in its Executive Masters of Science In Technology Management Program. Prior to starting The Conall Group, he worked for several years at three of the major global financial services companies, attaining the role of regional CIO of the equity division in one of the firms. 

This article was originally published on 09-18-2013
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