October 01, 2012, 10:48 AM — With 2012 revenues of $4.1 billion, Electronic Arts (EA) is the third-largest video game company in the world by revenue behind only Nintendo and Activision Blizzard. It boasts landmark franchises such as Madden NFL, FIFA, The Sims and Mass Effect. Through its PopCap Games subsidiary it is the publisher of hits like Bejeweled and Plants vs. Zombies. And yet, in June of 2012, EA's chief operating officer compared the company to a burning oil platform.
It was a provocative statement, but the reasons for it should be familiar to most business leaders, even if their industry has nothing to do with video games: Disruptive trends like mobile, BYOD, consumerization of IT and cloud are changing the fabric of business and organizations either need to take the plunge or risk destruction.
With the writing on the wall, EA decided to change its business from the bottom up. In February, the company brought in Mark Tonnesen, formerly the CIO of McAfee, to fill the CIO chair and usher in what it calls a digital transformation.
CIO.com Senior Writer Thor Olavsrud recently sat down with Tonnesen to discuss digital transformation, BYOD, consumerization of IT and the future of IT at EA.
CIO.com: You joined Electronic Arts in February of this year as the company began what I understand is a pretty big strategic course change called digital transformation. In June, EA COO Peter Moore told Gamasutra, "We're picking our way through what 'digital transformation' means. We recognized that we are standing on a burning platform. It's an oil rig in the middle of the sea, and it's exploding. You can stay or you can hold our noses and jump. At least that way, you have a shot."
As CIO, you're one of the guys in charge of enabling this transformation. What does digital transformation mean and what does that transformation entail?
Mark Tonnesen: I think where Peter's going and what I would probably say is that where it's going is survival. As a base starting point, we believe, we see in the numbers, we certainly see it just intuitively: Almost every part of our lives is going digital. It's all online, it's mobile. Everything we do, we want to do at our fingertips when we want to do it and where we want to do it. It's multiple platforms, Internet-enabled and mobile. Gaming is no different. For us it starts with survival.