Forbes CIO-plus Series: Karl Salnoske, GXS

February 25, 2013
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Karl Salnoske identified the need for a CIO-plus role at his company before he was even hired, and recommended the creation of the position he would eventually fill.

by Peter High, published on


Karl Salnoske, the Executive Vice President of Service Delivery and CIO at GXS, a global leader in B2B integration, had a very diverse set of experiences prior to becoming a CIO. He had been a consultant at McKinsey, he had spent time as a general manager in IBM’s Software Solutions, and he had been the president and CEO of a start-up that provided the next generation in decision optimization tools to help customers in the energy and process industries reduce costs and maximize revenues. That company, Adaptive Trade, was acquired by B2eMarkets in 2004, and it was soon thereafter that he began his first ever stint as a CIO at Schering-Plough, where he would remain for over five years.

Salnoske is the first of the CIO-pluses profiled herein who joined his company as a CIO-plus.  The job was not initially specified as a CIO-plus role, however.  In fact, Salnoske, leveraging his skills as an expert in diagnosing problems to identify that the company needed someone who would oversee a broader variety of divisions of the company to get to the root cause of an issue that had been labeled as an operations problem, as he explains at some length herein.

(This is the thirteenth piece in the CIO-plus series. To read the prior twelve interviews with the CIO-pluses from Waste Management, McKesson, Merck, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Ameristar Casinos, Owens Corning, Marsh & McLennan, ADP, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta,  the San Francisco Giants, and Walgreens, as well as a partner in the CIO/CTO practice for Heidrick and Struggles, please click this link. To receive notice about future interviews in the series with CIO-pluses of P&G and others, please click visit the column’s page. in the weeks to come.)

Peter High:
Karl, of all the executives profiled in this series, you are the first to be hired in as the CIO-plus.  Can you tell us how it came to pass that you were hired with the full set of responsibilities that you have?

Karl Salnoske:
I had an advantage in that I did not grow up in an IT department.  I spent time as a consultant at McKinsey, as a general manager of Software Solutions at IBM, and as the President and CEO of a start-up before becoming CIO at Schering-Plough.  I held that last role for five years, so I got to know it quite well.

When I started looking for the next opportunity, a recruiter suggested that I check out GXS. There was an opening as an SVP of Operations.  As I met more people, I started to put on my consultant hat to diagnose where there were opportunities with this role, and what issues needed to be fixed.  On the surface, many people thought that there were operations issues, but I discovered that the problems were larger and more interconnected than that and included engineering, customer support, integration, and IT.  Therefore, I told our CEO, Bob Segert that in order to improve the operations issues, he needed an executive whose purview included each of the aforementioned areas, and that short of that, they would not get to the root cause of the problems they hoped to solve.  The issue was that there were groups operating in silos who needed to partner together in a better way.  Bob appreciated my candid feedback, took my suggestion to the board, and I was offered a role that had responsibility for all of those areas.

Additional topics covered in the article include:

  • Can you describe the various functions that you lead?
  • You mentioned that you had a diverse array of responsibilities prior to your first CIO role.  Can you talk about these further, and how they shaped your ability to be the CIO-plus you are now?
  • How does strategic planning work for your multi-divisional responsibilities?
  • How do you measure success across each of functional strategic area that cascades from the company’s corporate objectives?
  • What advice would you offer to CIOs who have the desire to take on a CIO-plus role?

To read the full article, please visit

To explore other CIO-plus Series articles, please click here.

To explore the Technovation Column library, please click here.

To listen to Karl Salnoske’s Forum on World Class IT podcast interview, please click here.

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