Technology Is Music to San Francisco Symphony CIO's Ears

Priority List: Virtualization, green IT, data storage and digital asset management will help the San Francisco Symphony more effectively connect with its customers and leverage 100 years of music.

Michael Skaff is the CIO of the San Francisco Symphony, one of the country's leading symphonic orchestras, and an eWEEK Corporate Partner. His specialties include technology strategy/planning, budgeting, complex contract negotiation, disaster recovery/business continuity planning, LAN/WAN design, security and unified communications. Michael will be a speaker at RSA Conference 2009 in San Francisco.

Here is a list of his top 5 current priorities:

1. Strengthen the foundation.

Like all long-standing institutions, we rely on a solid foundation that has been built over nearly 100 years of history. But with that kind of longevity comes a few cobwebs. As we approach our centennial year, we will remove or replace some of the last remaining legacy systems, and enhance that foundation with the tools and people that will help pave the way for the next hundred years. More immediately, this has translated into enhancing our network infrastructure, driving down spam, and building a strong and dynamic "stage" from which we will launch our second century.

2. Build a digital asset management system.

Being a cultural institution, we have accumulated what can only be called a massive amount of content. From music and other media assets to image data to a plethora of other valuable historical data, the San Francisco Symphony has a wealth of information and assets that must be preserved, organized and archived and in a way that both ensures longevity and, where we can, allows us to utilize it to benefit the local and global music community. Given the age and format of some of these assets-as well as the ingest, categorization and storage requirements-this will be an undertaking of monumental proportions, but it is incredibly exciting, given the scope and opportunities it will present. This project will incorporate, among other things, data lifecycle management, storage, backup and recovery, digital media distribution, and database integration.

3. Be green; save green.

In this economy, everyone is focused on the bottom line, but it is also a priority to be environmentally conscious. Virtualization offers benefits in both areas: By reducing the number of physical servers, we also reduce the increasingly expensive support costs we incur as the servers age. We also reduce our carbon footprint and power usage. We are looking to lower printing costs by reducing the number of printers we support and encouraging the organization to use duplex whenever possible and to print less in general. The idea of sustainability takes on even greater significance when you plan for the long term.

4. Deliver the best customer experience possible.

Customer acquisition and retention is important to all businesses, but even more so when the business relies upon the generosity of its donors for a portion of its revenue. As such, customer service is paramount to us, and to deliver the best experience to our customers, we put an extraordinary amount of effort into actively listening to and understanding our customers. Enhancing our business intelligence tools will help us deliver even more effectively on that priority.

5. Enhance online presence and customer outreach.

Music is a passion for many. While we already offer single tickets and subscriptions on our primary Website; provide music education and outreach to children, youth and adults in our Keeping Score and SFS Kids sites; and maintain an online retail presence, there is so much more to come. I can't go into specifics quite yet, but we will be strategically leveraging technology to further connect with and enhance the overall experience for our customers, patrons and music lovers everywhere in new and exciting ways. With technology vaulting the music world forward in ways we never imagined (the YouTube Symphony, for example), it will be a powerful force in the evolution of how we consume and increasingly interact with our media.