Cablefax The Magazine - July 2013 - 24

2013 Top Ops Awards
INDEPENDENT TECHNOLOGY EXECUTIVE
OF THE YEAR
Cash Hagen
WOW!
Check the notes on WOW!
CTO Cash Hagen, and he
seems to be a prototypical
CTO. According to his
corporate bio, he oversees
" network engineering and
operations, including the
engineering, architecture and
integration of WOW!'s digital
video, high- speed data and
telephone services. " What the bio misses is that few
technology executives are more interested in people-
both customers and employees-than Cash Hagen. And
that makes him a perfect fit for WOW!, whose emphasis
on caring for customers and staff have helped make it a
success story.
Regarding Hagen's respect for the intersection of
humanity with technology, WOW! chief Colleen Abdoulah
puts it well: " Cash is a master of technology with an operational
focus... since he understands the broader implications
of technology, his bottom line is always how it
will serve customers and employees. " Adds WOW! Chief
Marketing Oficer Cathy Kuo: " Cash is a true partner. I
love that whatever the conversation-be it about strategy,
teams, or hairstyles-that Cash always is honest and
thoughtfully engaged. He's thinking about technology,
but always with an operations viewpoint so that we can
deliver the best possible customer experience. "
Hagen's viewpoint becomes apparent within a few minutes
of meeting him. Asked about integrating the Knology
systems WOW! acquired in late-April 2012, and his initial
* WOW! operates in Michigan, Illinois, Ohio and Indiana,
while Knology serves the southeastern and midwestern
U.S. The combined entity has some 800,000 customers,
passing 3mln homes in 13 states.
* Hagen joined WOW! in 2008 after working
on the supplier side for Nortel. He also
held senior positions at BigBand Networks,
Arris and Cox Communications,
among others. " I'm a cable guy, " he
says, " always been. "
24
cablefaxmag.com
thoughts are about corporate cultures. Only later does he
mention technology. " While Knology had many similarities
to us in terms of how we treat customers and employees,
there were some differences, " he says. " We didn't want
to assume that ours was the right way in every case, but
we knew there were issues we needed to address. So
there was a very purposeful and mindful cultural integration
strategy we put together... it was a blending of all the
good of two companies. "
To ease cultural blending, Hagen facilitated a Denison
Survey to evaluate employee attitudes. " We did this across
the entire employee base, WOW! and Knology, " he says.
" The intent was to hear from employees, not the CEO, what
Knology, a very successful company, did well. " When the
survey suggested that WOW! employees were more positive
about their company than Knology workers, " it gave us
the playbook on [cultural] things that we needed to address, "
Hagen says, adding that the plan is to do the survey
again at the one-year mark.
He says the initial 3 to 6 months focused on " big-ticket
things we knew we had to do, " like integration of inance
systems, HR systems, payroll and email systems. Then
there were " true network-integration things being done,
to bring our networks together. " Still, the human side
was critical. " I was very focused-and this is not always
easy-on being patient, and really understanding the operation;
what's there at the people level, the process level
and the infrastructure level before we made any radical
moves. " Over the last year, " we've been pealing back
the onion, inding things we couldn't have seen in due
diligence, " he says. From there Hagen and his team assembled
an extensive plan on reaching parity across the
board on Internet, video and voice products. This plan is
still underway.
As for the technology itself, " I ind the true convergence
of technologies to IP exciting, " Hagen says. " It gives us
the view that we can and will compete for many years...
It's not only about the physical medium by which we deliver
products; it's about the man behind the curtain. This
industry has incredible minds. It's exciting to think where
we go from here. "
But back to basics: operations, people, customers.
" Some weeks go by when I barely think about technology, "
he laughs. Still, " everything we do and I do is through the
lenses of customer experience. It's not about what's cool
or trendy, it's about what our customer wants and needs. "
Hear, hear.
- Seth Arenstein
July 2013
CableFAX: The Magazine
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Cablefax The Magazine - July 2013

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