Mark Laws, head of application services at publisher A&N Media, is like many working in the publishing industry in that he has a sharp focus on innovation.
A&N Media’s impressive portfolio includes the Daily Mail and London’s free newspaper, Metro, among others.
Laws manages a team of 24 staff and looks after a line of business applications that support editorial, commercial and advertising divisions, with about 7,500 users in total.
Some of these applications are developed in-house, some are modified off the shelf, and others are based in the cloud.
Already a consumer of cloud services, the group is looking to increase its use of these.
“We use Salesforce CRM for our email archiving and are running a BPOS [Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite] pilot,” says Laws. “We’re also playing around with some of the social networking technology.”
Microsoft’s BPOS is designed to aid enterprise collaboration, a working method Laws feels strongly about, but he has not yet chosen which collaborative technology to use and is looking at several.
Yammer and Chatter, for example, are private networking tools that enable collaboration between individuals within an organisation. “Yammer is used within the IT function quite significantly and Chatter is a few weeks into the pilot,” explains Laws.
It’s the integration of thoughts and ideas that excites Laws. He sees smart people with great ideas in his organisation, but feels they are not always able to share them in the right way.
“The microblog works perfectly for those guys,” he says. “It takes just 30 seconds to type suggestions, and you put out not so much a polished thought but at least an idea. That semi-formed communi-cation channel is great for innovation.”
Yammer also directly benefits Laws himself. He uses it to fill in the gaps between his weekly blog and, being relatively new to the role, it helps him to establish a style of leadership.
“You can get to know your employees and see what types of language they use,” he says. “You get an idea if they’re risk-averse, or more keen to innovate. You can see how people think.
“Some are deductive and like to work things out for themselves, while others are the reverse of that. It’s interesting to see who’s brave and who isn’t. There isn’t a right or wrong profile.”
He adds that Yammer feels more appropriate for enterprise use than Twitter, as updates can be exclusively professional in content. “You can ring-fence Yammer to your enterprise email address - in a way, it’s a closed-shop version of Twitter,” he says. “Often you don’t want the lines between professional/personal microblogging to blur.”