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Why the former CIO of Gap moved from clothes to cloud

Clint Boulton | May 13, 2016
After spending the past year investing in and advising a handful of retail and SaaS startups, Tom Keiser is again donning his CIO hat for Zendesk, a rising customer service software maker.

New beginning comes with data management challenges

Keiser says he found the right mix at Zendesk, whose IT profile stands in stark contrast to the one he overhauled at Gap: It born on the cloud, the preferred platform of the digital age. With technology becoming so ingrained in the fabric of businesses, Keiser says it's crucial for a CIO to hit it off with the CEO. He did so with Svane. "I really connected well with Mikkel and his vision on how to leverage technology and where he wanted to take this company."

Since going public in 2014, Zendesk in recent months has added advanced voice support to route customers to the right service agent, integration with Facebook Messenger to assist customers, and machine learning and predictive analytics to measure customer satisfaction. Such capabilities support ecommerce operations, which Keiser considers his bailiwick.

But as Zendesk embarks on the next stage in its global growth and plans to move forward with new products, Keiser must also scrutinize its underlying technologies, which include a mix of cloud services from the likes of Amazon Web Services and Rackspace. He'll also educate fellow CIOs about Zendesk's product. Keiser says he will assess whether the processes and systems that "worked well for small and medium-sized growth" will keep scaling.

Keiser says his 100-day plan for the company includes developing a strategy for how to better derive insights from the company's data. As product mix and customer mix grow, he says, companies must make sure they're appropriately governing data to better guide the business.

Ultimately, Keiser says he made the right choice in joining a more nimble company unfettered by legacy systems. "I'm looking forward to being able to make decisions and go as opposed to make decisions and go through approvals," he says.


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