Global CIO: How Lands' End's CIO Made The Case For Cloud

Steve Cretney plugged into a company goal--global expansion--to overcome doubts.

Chris Murphy, Editor, InformationWeek

March 7, 2011

3 Min Read

He likewise had to make the case with his fellow executives, including the CFO, to whom he reports. The financial reality is the company's business model--it's judged largely on EBITDA--favors capital expenses over ongoing operating expenses, and SaaS adds opex. Then Cretney got what he calls a "seize the moment" opportunity with the company's president. Walking across the company's Dodgeville, Wis., campus, the president said he'd heard about cloud and asked for Cretney's three-minute take on it. Forty-five minutes later, he left with the president's support.

Cretney still faced a reluctant IT team. He insisted they dig into the cloud option, and he promised he would meet with the project team every day, multiple times a day if needed, to hash out any problems. "We'd get smarter every day," he told them. But he had one answer when they'd offer approaches that kept the legacy system. "We're doing the cloud," Cretney would tell them. The team ultimately delivered--started the project in July and launched Sweden in October. "Then we were in a position to say, 'What do you want to do next?'" Cretney says.

This is just one CIO telling his company's story, but why it's so interesting is that this same story will play out across myriad businesses, as companies wrestle with what should go to the cloud and what shouldn’t. Not everything will. Regulated businesses, in particular, are frustrated by the limits on what they think should go into the cloud but can't. Some will decide that the never-ending opex tab is too high. Still, our latest SaaS survey shows that 60% of companies are now using SaaS of some kind--up a whopping 13 percentage points from just one year ago. Resistance is falling. (Read more about our survey in our digital issue, with a cover story on SaaS.)

It’s also interesting to hear Cretney describe a big part of his CIO job as a motivator and persuader for these kinds of efforts to change how IT operates. He understands that IT needs to move faster; he describes his IT roadmap as "a course to deliver more value in less time and beyond expectations." Cloud is a big part of that mission.

One way Lands’ End’s IT organization can speed things up, he says, is to make sure it can get out of the way when it needs to. Cretney's clear that he and IT are far from the only driver of tech-powered innovation. When it comes to some of the company’s efforts in mobile computing and social networking, for example, Cretney said, "I'm kind of standing back at times and saying 'Just go. Go do what you need to do.'"

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About the Author(s)

Chris Murphy

Editor, InformationWeek

Chris Murphy is editor of InformationWeek and co-chair of the InformationWeek Conference. He has been covering technology leadership and CIO strategy issues for InformationWeek since 1999. Before that, he was editor of the Budapest Business Journal, a business newspaper in Hungary; and a daily newspaper reporter in Michigan, where he covered everything from crime to the car industry. Murphy studied economics and journalism at Michigan State University, has an M.B.A. from the University of Virginia, and has passed the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exams.

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