by Peter High, published on Forbes
Kroger Chief Information Officer Chris Hjelm has led IT at a number of leading companies such as FedEx, eBay, and Cendant prior to joining the $108 billion business, operating food retail and drug stores, multi-department stores, jewelry stores, and convenience stores nearly ten years ago. Not content to lead a mere support organization, Hjelm has always thought about the strategic use of technology, and has long been a contributor to top and bottom-line gains to the enterprises of which he has been a part.
For example, Hjelm has instituted a research and development-type function within Kroger IT to investigate new innovations. Examples include investments in locationing technology that help the company ensure enough people are at the cash register before a rush of people have arrived to check-out, and digital shelf signage that help associates and customers more readily find what they seek. He also encourages his team to think like customers as they shop for groceries.
It is no wonder that Hjelm has been asked to join a number of boards in his time, as other companies seek to have him bring the same creative thinking to their companies. In the process, he has forged a path that a variety of others should seek to follow.
(To listen to an unabridged audio version of this interview, please visit this link. This article is part of my series on board-level CIO series. To listen to the prior articles featuring the CIOs of companies like FedEx, Cardinal Health, The World Bank Group, and Southwest Airlines, among others, please visit this link. To read future articles in the series, please click the “Follow” link above.)
Peter High: You’re the Vice President and Chief Information Officer for the Kroger Company. Please talk about your role at the company.
Chris Hjelm: From the CIO perspective, it has everything to do with technology at Kroger, so that’s everything from technology in our stores, to the systems that run the business, as well as the corporate office and other divisions around the company. The simple thing about Kroger is that, versus some other places I’ve worked, it’s a US company. So we have pretty much everything here in the US market, which makes life a lot easier than traveling the globe, as I’ve done before.