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CIO Values: Ken Harris, CIO and Senior VP Of Shaklee

The job of CIO has always been about change and handling the pace of change, Harris says.
Career Track

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Ken Harris
CIO And Senior VP Shaklee

Photo by Kim Kulish
How long at current company: Four years

Career accomplishment I'm most proud of: At last count, 13 individuals who worked for me have become CIOs at different companies. Many are still CIOs. Doesn't necessarily mean I helped them, but it does mean I didn't screw them up.

Most important career influencer: Pete Bassi, former chairman of Yum Restaurants International (Pepsi's restaurant unit), who hired me as CIO. He's a consummate professional, teaching by example in a nonthreatening way. As my career progresses, I've realized he's the highest-integrity individual I've ever met in my life. The more I work in my career, the more I appreciate that. Pete's retired now.

Decision I wish I could do over: Over the years, I've started three companies. One was consulting, one technology, one services. They were all successful in their day, not blowouts, but successful. I didn't hang long enough with them to see if they would've been blowouts.

Vision
The next big thing for my business will be ... Bringing the power of social networking to business environments. What specific tools and how they'll be used has yet to be defined, but the potential changes in how business is accomplished using these tools are enormous.

Best advice for future CIOs: The job of CIO has always been about change and handling the pace of change, and that's picked up dramatically. Plan to eliminate 50% to 70% of what you have to do--outsource it, hand it over to others, find ways to use a SaaS model, and focus on strategic value.

On The Job
IT budget (approximate): Operating capital is $20 million

Size of IT team: 50 to 75 people

Top three initiatives:

  • Bringing Web 2.0 tools, including social networking tools, to our sales force, which is made up of independent salespeople.
  • We've got a new product line, so we're bringing in new technologies to enable it to be creative and grow.
  • New ERP systems for our Japanese business.

How I measure IT effectiveness: One metric is customer satisfaction, but at the senior executive level. It involves interaction with the executive committee, asking, "Are you getting what you need? Who in my organization is working with you?

Personal
Colleges/degrees: Earned undergrad degrees in economics, accounting, also grad degree in accounting, at SUNY Binghamton; graduate degree in IT from Colorado State University.

Leisure activities: Running and backpacking

If I weren't a CIO, I'd be ... CEO of a Web 2.0 startup. I wouldn't rule this one out.

Editor's Choice
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer