By Michael Goul, Chairman, Department of Information Systems
Stratocaster®, Telecaster®, Mustang®, Dreadnought, Hot Rod Deluxe™, and Bronco™: distant worlds, fantasy football teams, perhaps hottest new toys of the holiday season? NOT! Anyone who’s into music can tell you that these are Fender products, guitars and amps, products that have carried the spirit of rock and roll into the world. These names conjure up famous riffs by artists ranging from Jimi Hendrix to Eric Clapton to Greenplum. Fender is one of the best-recognized global corporate brands, and both amateur and professional musicians prize the company’s products. IT matters at Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, and several of our students in their capstone information systems project course were invited by the Society for Information Management (SIM) to a special event held at Fender’s headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona to hear how.
A strong CIO and Marketing strategic partnership was on display at Fender’s headquarters during SIM’s special October meeting. Michael Spandau, Fender CIO and winner of the Arizona SIM 2011 CIO of the Year award, hosted the event along with Fender Senior Vice President of Marketing, Richard McDonald. It became quickly apparent that Fender’s Chief Information Officer and the Senior VP of Marketing work in close harmony.
Forbes recently echoed a Gartner analyst’s prediction that by 2017, CMOs will spend more on IT than CIOs: “Inevitably, marketing is poised to exert even more influence over tech spending, but doing so without the solid foundation of a strong cross-functional collaboration with IT just doesn’t make sense. Today’s business environment is volatile, and we’ve lost what little margin there was for error. Marketing and IT have no choice but to get on the same page and drive business value working together … .”
SVP of Marketing Richard McDonald bore out the prediction in an inspiring talk on the significance of IT to Fender’s customer engagement, global branding and business processes. An accomplished professional guitarist himself, Mr. McDonald still plays on special occasions with Alice Cooper. He explained the evolution of music eras and how Fender has kept pace, discussing how the current generation of musicians is uniquely tech savvy and engaged with music in ways different than prior generations. Today, music lovers rely on a plethora of mobile and personal devices, digital delivery platforms and high quality headphones. That’s a major change from the past, when friends got together to unwrap a new vinyl album, examine its cover, place it on a turntable and get down with big speakers blasting away. But leading and managing major change is in Fender’s genes. Consider how the Big Band era gave way to relatively small groups of musicians who, empowered by Fender products and engineering genius, changed music forever.
McDonald explained that when a customer scans a QR code displayed with a new Fender guitar on exhibit at a specialized music store, the link needs to connect perfectly every time. IT has become central to the important customer impressions formed at every touch point. If you visit Fender’s website and take just a few moments to become a part of the Fender community, an amazing experience awaits you. You can design a custom guitar, take guitar-playing lessons, tune your guitar and download amplifier software. And you can get tips from a community of experts that spans the globe. You see, it is in Fender’s best interest that you take on the challenge of becoming a master. Fender’s best customers, the masters, own many different models and generations of their guitars.
A team of soon-to-be-graduating seniors earning a computer information systems degree in the W. P. Carey School of Business - and their professor, Dr. Tim Olsen, attended the SIM event at Fender by special invitation. These students have been working on senior projects with SIM. Olsen coordinates the Department of Information Systems senior projects with SIM, other local organizations and professional societies. These projects lend special polish to students about ready to step into their careers.
In addition to these students, past and current recipients of SIM’s annual scholarship were in attendance. A past winner, now employed by American Express, brought along his father who is also an American Express employee. These SIM scholarships are among the most prized by students – and they are very competitive. SIM sponsors, including those who provide financial support for events like the Fender meeting, fund the scholarships. We are very grateful for this support for our students.
For me personally, this was an extra special SIM meeting, and I am still in awe. Tours of Fender’s headquarters were provided by CIO Michael Spandau’s IT professionals, and everywhere throughout the space were reminders of the world’s greatest guitarists and the amazing music they’ve created. It was incredible to hear first-hand the business genius of Richard McDonald who clearly articulated the value of IT in the context of his SVP role. He emphasized several times how important it is for the CIO to be at the leadership table. I watched our students react and engage throughout the evening. Not only was I proud of them, but I am always blown away by the generosity and engagement of SIM, all of its members, companies like Fender and executives like Richard McDonald and Michael Spandau who contribute so much to our educational mission.
If you are in a senior level position working in the information technology area, I heartily recommend that you connect with SIM and complete an application to join today. If you’d like, you can call me personally, and I will get you connected with the right people on the Arizona Chapter Board of Directors. You will find SIM to be a dedicated, close knit group of amazing leaders who meet regularly to learn from one another and advance IT and business both locally and nationally. They are also very much a part of how we in the W. P. Carey School aspire to change lives through business education. I can tell you that I have gained extensively from my SIM membership – I am a better professor because of it. I have a better understanding of the real issues that need to be researched and can articulate my research objectives in a manner such that IT executives can react and gauge impact. And impact is what matters in research these days. Finally, I am continually inspired by how important it is to SIM leaders to take the time to nurture our future IT leaders. Thank you, SIM for your leadership!