Technology & Innovation: How Can Disney Take on the Metaverse When It Can't Make IT Work?
In an earlier podcast, we spoke about some of the great things potentially happening technology wise at Disney, even as it relates to IT. We’ll look at real challenges Disney is facing and how they have consistently struggled with making improvements, adopting innovation, or working across the board instead of in silos. We’ll consider how organizations like Disney are re-looking at whether they should have a dedicated IT department at all. And we’ll explore options for Disney to get this right moving forward. Remember, when we talk about the primary thing that upsets Disney guests and fans more than any one thing–Genie+, it’s a paid product centered around technology. And yet this may be just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to technology. Technology matters at Disney, and Disney has to turn it around–especially if it wants to go into the Metaverse.
- Having announced Genie+ coming in 2019, and having the benefit of the parks closed to work on it as well as the experience of previous parks that have done similar systems, the product still poorly premiered as it
- Often goes down
- Fails to consistently do what it was intended to do
- Is confusing to navigate
- Came all at once, rather than at stages
- Suffers from poor nomenclature
- With all of the “One Disney” effort that started ten years ago, there still is not a “One Disney” when it comes to IT. Even their e-mail systems aren’t linked. They are a siloed operation.
- I know of two projects that if they were green lit, would make the company considerably more per cap. One of those projects has been sitting around for quite a while.
- The executive vice president of digital, and global chief technology officer for Disney Parks, Experiences and Products for the Walt Disney Company, Tilak Mandadi, who was the first to share the idea of Disney being in the Metaverse, left last year and joined MGM Resorts International.
- Diane Jurgens now sits as the Executive Vice President of Enterprise Technology and Chief Information Officer for the Walt Disney Company. Her previous experience was with BHP, a multinational mining and petroleum company, not with an outwardly customer facing organization.
- The organization is now being re-organized into a more central unit. On the surface that makes a lot of sense. This may help remove the silos, but reorganizing seldom does any good when it comes to engaging your employees.
- There are daily IT outages where systems are going down. Many of them are big outages that keep guests from not only enjoying the parks, but the company from incurring revenue.
- Just as Imagineering is being moved out of California and over to Orlando, so is Disney’s IT arm.
- There may well be a drain of good IT sources moving out of Disney. What is known is that there are bonus options trying to be put in along the way.
Here are a couple of ways my family and I have been impacted by the technology:
- Who was the largest shareholder at Disney? Steve Jobs. You would think with Steve having been in that position that the company would have put the benefits of a MagicBand on an iPhone or Apple Watch. At least the park ticket. It finally got around to that but now when I use it, the app keeps flipping back to my son’s ticket not mine. The same thing has occurred on my phone. Eventually, I end up pulling out my wallet and just showing a ticket.
- The app on the phone and the door system operating in all Disney resorts can experience failure. My wife has gotten to the room door only to not be able to enter because the system had gone down. A room key can address that–perhaps a Magic Band. But if you haven’t got either of those, than a phone alone will leave you stranded.
- It was two weeks in before I was able to book in Genie+. Though the IT team was helpful, the error was largely due to the fact that I had too many people listed on my account. That problem was due to the fact that I couldn’t remove those parties, and that had gone on for several years. Even Cast Members at Guest Relations couldn’t remove them.
These are specific examples, but they are backed up by countless times the system is down, it’s not accepting your ID/password, or its failed to follow through on a request. When all of these kinds of events occur, I truly wonder if Disney can be a leader in the Metaverse.
All that said and done, Genie+ for good and evil is making a lot of money. Many Lightning Lane attractions are filled up with quests in queue, and most Individual Lightning Lane attractions like Rise and Ratatouille, are gone first thing in the morning.
The result is that I’ve heard from a couple of different areas of this effort that the team is feeling very positive. Perhaps they are pleased that it has sold out or made the per caps they wanted. Perhaps they are in some GroupThink and they aren’t fully aware of the bugs that occur when things go wrong, or simply the frustration guests have trying to figure it out when things are going right.
Meanwhile Bob Chapek makes a new announcement with respect to the Metaverse as he promotes Mike White as Senior Vice President, Next Generation Storytelling and Consumer Experiences.
WSJ: Should You Get Rid of Your IT Department?
The Wall Street Journal asked the question a few months ago, should you get ride of your IT department?
There seems to be evidence that some of the problems the article mentions manifests itself at Disney. Silos are a big problem at Disney.
One example of this is the original MyMagic, which was put forward by park operations, but with little input from Imagineering. This use of silos is precisely what will make the Metaverse fail moving forward.
There needs to be a “OneIT”. Just like everyone picks up trash, but some are dedicated to hosing sidewalks, cleaning toilets and hauling away bags of garbage, so it is with IT. Everyone must support the IT function, while still allowing dedicated IT functions to still handle key areas such as storage and security.
A big example with the silos in the Disney organization is that the technology-trained people who run interactive activities in the attractions are with parks and not resorts. There’s a big question as to whether the Starcruiser is going to keep up technology wise.
Who is Leading?
Disney has moved forward by identifying a new leader to move this initiative forward in the form of Mike White. Who he reports to and who reports to him does not paint an image that technology is a driver for technologically based solutions. Yes, what makes Disney different is its creative approaches to storytelling.
One wonders how many in the C-Suite are really tech-savvy and know the business of technology. If the Metaverse is major, how are C-Suite employees supporting the strategy of that? How technology savvy are leaders who are leading a strategy around technology?
I don’t really see the Ed Catmull’s–the tech leaders–who are going to make technology rise for the Metaverse. I don’t see the UB Iwerks who made multiplane cameras and other cinematic innovations possible. I don’t see the equivalent of leading Imagineers like a Bob Gurr or a X Atencio on this.
How Agile is the Organization?
In the end, agility is needed for the organization to effectively move forward. The dictionary definition of the term is “marked by an ability to think quickly; mentally acute or aware.” Standard “command and control” organizations are typically burdened with bureaucratic silos and cultures that reinforce multi-phase processes that inhibit fast decisions and a quick response. On the other hand, agile organizations are characterized as a collection of integrated high-performing teams that are highly-aligned, clearly communicating, rapid-learning, and fast acting. These traits position agile organizations to adapt.
Agility is the nimbleness and ability of organizations to respond to circumstances and conditions around them. Agility is a situational advantage that can strategically and tactically respond to ever changing environments. It is not just about being “quick” to respond, but rather being grounded in its response as well. This is important for organizations as a whole, but starts at the team level – where the customer experience is actually created. Such an anticipatory approach requires being responsive, flexible, streamlined, expert, and resourceful.
Agility is a key solution.
Walt Disney said, “It’s kinda fun to do the impossible!” What Disney wants to do is not impossible, but it is implausible if you don’t have an agile team in place to do the impossible.
Souvenirs for You and Your Organization
Consider the following questions as they relate to what you do:
- What is your metric for assessing how good an IT group you have?
- Are you a technology company, or are you a company with an IT department on the side? Can you afford the latter in the 21st century?
- How do you create a “OneIT” where everyone has a responsibility toward technology, not just a few?
- How is the isolation of a IT department, keeping you from being a technology company?
- How technology savvy are leaders who are leading a strategy around technology?
- Who are experts you are bringing in to do things that have never been done before?
- How agile is the organization and its people for attempting something that is truly out of the box?
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