Bottom Line Per…Gap CIO Ken Harris

Ken Harris has been chief information officer of apparel retailer The Gap since 1999, overseeing a $400-million technology department with 1,500 employees. He’s also held the CIO job at PepsiCo Inc.

Q: What metrics do you use to evaluate bottom-line results?

A: The valuable metrics are the end-state metrics and not the mid-state metrics.

Q: What are end-state metrics?

A: The things that impact the customer, the employee or the company’s bottom line. A project is not successful when the technology is installed. A project is successful when the consumer, employee or shareholder gets the benefit because the technology has been installed.

Q: Can you give an example?

A: A project we worked on recently was a new point-of-sale[system] from a company called 360Commerce. We have, in fact, measured faster throughput at the checkout lines, [something] customers see as a real benefit. When customers come to buy a product, we can move them through [the checkout line] faster. We’ve also measured training. The new system is a lot easier for store clerks. It’s more intuitive and it has built-in learning aids.

Q: How long does it take a customer to go through checkout?

A: We don’t release those kinds of details. But that’s the kind of thing we track to measure success, rather than “How many stores did we roll that out to?”

Q: How do you decide which metrics to measure?

A: Before we do the project. Because that, in effect, is what justifies doing the project. We look for, “If I do this project, spend this money and time, decide these resources—what benefit is the company, customer or employee going to see?” Can I quantify that? Can I translate that into a direct or indirect ROI [return on investment] on the project?

Q: What role does ROI play?

A: An important role. On behalf of our shareholders, we have to make sure every dollar we invest is well invested. You can’t begin to do that unless you are tracking and measuring what you plan to get from your activities.

Q: What do you expect from your new forecasting system?

A: We’re still in the process of measuring that. With a forecasting system, you’re looking to get a more accurate buy, a higher inventory turn and a higher percentage of goods sold at full retail [price]. Those are the kinds of metrics you’d measure.