Will Google CIO Flourish as EMI's New Prez?

Apr. 2.08 | About: Alphabet Inc. (GOOG)

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) CIO Douglas Merrill will reportedly jump ship to EMI to become president of the music label. His mission: Figure out this digital music thing.

Merrill’s move–reported by John Furrier and confirmed at numerous other news outlets–is a curious one. For EMI, Merrill brings technical know-how and instant credibility in the digital world. EMI is the fourth-largest record label, but has been in front when it comes to ditching DRM and figuring out how to make its tunes fly in the new world order. Google can find another CIO in about five minutes.

But once the headlines die down, I have to question how this adventure will turn out for Merrill. Why?

Merrill’s bio sheds little light on how he’ll fare in a quirky, bureaucratic and ego-driven business like the music industry. Here are Merrill’s previous positions:

  • Google CIO where he navigated all the regulatory hurdles involved with the search giant’s IPO. He also led an army of internal engineers and support staff. Let’s face it, Google is a dream job for an IT forward-thinker. Will Merrill be frustrated at EMI?
  • At Charles Schwab (NYSE:SCHW), Merrill was responsible for information security, infrastructure, human resources strategy and operations.
  • He was also at Price Waterhouse where he specialized in security.

The common thread: All of those firms are front-runners when it comes to IT theory and practice. Merrill is obviously well rounded – he has degrees in social and political organization and psychology.

At EMI Merrill may need more psychology than tech chops. He has to herd cats in an industry that is notorious for not getting this Internet thing. Merrill goes from an innovative industry to one where most of the innovation is in finding creative ways to sue people.

In a recent Information Week interview Merrill talked about cloud computing, “the best CIO job in the world” and driving innovation. Simply put, EMI isn’t Google.

Careerwise, the EMI gig is probably a good move. No sense in being boxed into technology, but it’s going to be interesting to see how this one turns out.