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Upping the IT quotient: A custom program for News Corporation

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With business units as diverse as 20th Century Fox, The Times, MyNetworkTV, National Geographic Channel, and Fox Interactive Media, News Corporation touches 70% of the world's population every day. While its vast reach and numerous holdings are a plus in terms of a successful business model, these elements make for a complex organization, along with challenging leadership responsibilities.

In an effort to assist its executives and strengthen its organizational structure, News Corporation’s then Senior Vice President and CIO Dave Benson turned to MIT Sloan for help—in particular, Peter Weill, whose book, IT Governance: How Top Performers Manage IT Decision Rights for Superior Results, Benson was reading at the time. Weill is a Senior Research Scientist at MIT Sloan and the Director of the School's Center for Information Systems Research (CISR).

Benson's ultimate goal was to enhance the company executives' skill set so that they could manage their IT operations like businesses and better align the IT activities with the company's diverse business units. Weill suggested a custom program because of MIT Sloan's research and expertise in finance, marketing, leadership development, and generating business value from IT—as well as the program's tailored curriculum and one-on-one coaching aspects. "The key to the success of this program was the combination of MIT Sloan’s reputation, a strong customized curriculum, outstanding faculty, and the ability to deliver it all without relieving people of their day jobs," says Benson.

From the start, the VP liked the fit. "The group projects are defined collaboratively among MIT Sloan faculty, staff, and News Corporation CIOs ... The small group collaborations help to develop the person-to-person network within the company across multiple businesses and geographies. And, we get consulting support and ROI on News Corporation’s high priority internal IT projects."

In order to enhance coordination and reduce duplication of effort, one group of executives proposed a framework for sharing Internet development strategies across all News Corporation business units. A second team developed an internal communication system that helps the company deliver common messages to all employees instantly.

The results of the program have been impressive. Overall, the program ensured ROI within a critical sector that spans News Corporation's diverse business units. And, according to Benson, the program was successful with both its participants and the sponsoring CIOs. "Corporate has agreed to fund the program. The business units have agreed to share their best people. The participants say it's the most rewarding professional development opportunity of their careers. What can we possibly do for an encore?"

Read more MIT Sloan Custom Program success stories.