Sony Electronics' New CIO: Preparing For Convergence

Jan 27, 2002 (07:01 PM EST)

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Sony Electronics, the $40 billion retail products division of Japanese company Sony Corp., will reveal Tuesday a new CIO, and his main challenge--and primary motivation--is aligning the division's IT structure and strategy to accommodate the accelerating convergence of products, content, and service in the consumer electronics market. "I wouldn't be here if I hadn't had a lot of conversations about how strategic [Sony executives] view this role," says James Milde, who comes to Sony after two years as senior VP and CIO of the Pepsi Bottling Group. Milde replaces Bill Gauld, who left for another opportunity.

Milde, 41, will report directly to Fujio Nishida, president and chief operating officer of Sony Electronics, and will have overall responsibility for the division's IT organization in supporting sales, marketing, and manufacturing operations. Before Pepsi, Milde spent nine years in the media industry, most recently as senior VP of operations and administration for Random House, where he was responsible for IT, supply-chain logistics, and new media. That's why, he says, when Sony approached him about the CIO job, he found it appealing. "It's a great space for me to get back into," he says.

Milde's short-term goal is to centralize Sony Electronics' IT structure, which is dispersed both geographically and organizationally--though he's quick to point out that doesn't necessarily mean layoffs. Milde also intends to integrate Sony Electronics' IT infrastructure. "We need to get from a host of legacy systems down to a couple," he says. That includes standardizing on some key technologies: "We've made a couple of bets on Oracle and SAP for transactional systems."

But Milde's long-term goal is supporting the "convergence of content through devices across mediums"--the challenges represented by such sophisticated products as high-definition television, IP addressable devices, and mobile computing--that's reshaping the retail electronics business. Says Milde: "This is a big job with a large [element of] transformation and a lot of moving parts."