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New GoPro CIO Tackles App Sprawl in Preparation for Move into Big Data

on March 10, 2015

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What’s the first thing you do as the inaugural CIO of a $1.4 billion company experiencing profit-tripling growth in Q4 of last year? GoPro’s new CIO, Tony Young, found himself asking that question, according to a recent CIO Journal post. “To earn my stripes, I have to execute and deliver things in the short term,” he explains, just weeks into his new position.

The CIO role is changing. Adaptability isn’t just part of the game anymore; it is the game. In some organizations, CIOs are expected to have expertise in everything from cyber security to digital media. What’s particularly impressive about Young’s undertaking is that he is GoPro’s first CIO, and he’s hopping on to a fast-moving train that (nearly overnight) is clocking 600MM+ in quarterly sales.

GoPro

Image via WSJ

So what’s his first move as IT head of the wearable camera company? Young has some organization to do. Unsurprisingly, some app sprawl cleanup is required to support those growth numbers. Once that’s out of the way, he has to make these systems work together. It’s a two-part strategy to align the organization’s IT decisions with its market trajectory, wherein GoPro “evolves from a device-maker to a Big Data company.”

According to Clint Boulton of CIO Journal, “As GoPro continues to commercialize content services, including building an application that will enable users to stream video content captured from its cameras to smart TVs, and partnering with the NHL to capture hockey games from the Player’s perspective, it will collect more information about how its customers are creating and interacting with content, including any friction points that may degrade the user experience.”

With millions of cameras around the world recording video, and plans to stream that video, they’d be crazy not to take advantage of all that data. The mantra of all disruptive companies these days, “Every Company is a Software Company,” is certainly coming to life at GoPro. The 800-pound gorilla in the room, though, is that the company wasn’t built from the ground up as a “software” company, like disrupters Uber and AirBNB. It’s a device maker, and its business units have adopted cloud applications like crazy to get to where they are today. In fact, 98% of their applications run in someone else’s data center.

In fast-moving companies, not to mention ones pivoting like GoPro, governance is difficult to instill. When business units are accustomed to signing up for whatever they need, when they need it – it’s even more difficult. Allowing them some freedom, while tightening those reigns (read: centralizing application management while enabling departmental application adoption or development) is the Holy Grail in app governance.

Here’s our take: security, performance, authentication, and integration all can be managed centrally. They’re the overhead in an application landscape: important, but not tied to a business unit’s ability to affect profit. UI, logic, data – that’s where business units create value. Those applications that automate workflows, turn scores of data into insightful information, and derive some strategic differentiation for the company need to be business-unit-inspired and business-unit-owned.

Related eBook: The Executive’s Guide to the New App World

So if GoPro is going to bob and weave like a software company, step one is getting some form of IT governance locked into place. Young has to think about these components in every application and figure out whether to keep it, replace it, or lose it. Only then can Young start connecting all those applications, making them work together securely and at-scale, and preparing for the myriad of data analytics systems he’ll need to support a Big Data company.

I’ll be interested to see how Young executes on his mission to organize and govern the device-maker gone Big-Data company. If there’s one thing we can learn from his initiation project, it’s that adaptability is a growth-requirement no matter who (or what) you are today.

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  • Peter van der Pol

    You almost got me started to think that GoPro would be a new customer.. Now that would be cool.

  • Haha, indeed – they could certainly use Mendix to help connect those disparate systems. I’ve started to blog about “Celebrity CIO’s” like Jay Vijayan (Tesla) and Tony Young (GoPro). I think they’re at the center of some really significant forces – like the way their role is change, how the technologies they use are changing, and what their customers (internal or not) expect of them. Makes for interesting stories and best practices. Hope you enjoy them!

  • Definitely It was a very interesting blog post. The Internet of Things and Big Data are big players in the market and Mendix has to be in the game.