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Interview: EMI's Douglas Merrill on Google's future

ex-Google CIO Merrill talks before his move to EMI

Douglas Merrill, ex CIO of Google and now president of EMI's digital business division talks about how the internet search pioneer's IT organisation is configured, how CIOs need to evolve and the most exasperating question people ask him at cocktail parties.

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Okay then, what is the most exasperating question that people outside of Google ask you?

"When are you going to release Product X?" Because people are so excited about the products we have, and there's so much creativity coming out of Google engineering, they want to know when we're going to release this function or that.

And I can't answer. We just have so much work being done in our engineering labs.

And even if I knew, I still couldn't answer. There's so much innovation happening all the time, you don't know the next big thing that's going to happen. It's a really cool problem to have.

Let's switch gears for a moment. How do CIOs need to change their approache?

The language we're using in the job must change. Increasingly, I don't think there's a meaningful distinction between technology and the business. It hasn't always been true. If you look at a company like Google, there's no distinction, but we're a technology company, so that kind of makes sense.

I think CIOs [need to] think about aligning with the business and really think about ourselves as being CIOs in the business. [CIOs should be] less budget-focused.

So how do CIOs make that transition?

We have to admit that there's a problem. We have to reward talent in the organisation for taking risks and applying all of the innovation that's available to us and being truly a business function.

How do you see your own role evolving?

I feel like every three to six months I'm in a different job. Change is fast here. I can't predict what will happen down the road, but what I spend my time doing today won't be what I'm doing this summer or in the fall.

[Well, he did give us a hint!]

What are some of the things that concern you lately?

At the highest level, it's not that much different from anyone else, to make my employees as productive as possible; for anyone who needs help, get it to them quickly; to make it possible for our users at Google Checkout to feel secure to buy from different merchants; and to support the growth of Google Apps.

When I go to speak with CEOs of Fortune 1,000 companies, I say "Here's how we run our company using Google Apps. Why don't you try it, too?"

  1. Douglas Merrill give us his views on being a successful CIO
  2. Google's forthcoming strategy, green computing and what's cool about Google
  3. How CIOs need to change

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