by Alice Dragoon

20/20 HONOREES – Ken Lacy

Oct 01, 20023 mins


United Parcel Service of America Inc.

Ken Lacy began his career at UPS in 1967, taking in packages and sweeping the floors as an 18-year-old clerk in the Orlando office. At 26, he became one of the youngest district controllers in the company’s history. After working his way through college?and the finance and accounting ranks at UPS?Lacy became corporate controller in 1992. “I thought I had arrived at that point and would be there a long time, safe and sound in that job,” he recalls. Lacy was wrong.

In 1994, after Lacy successfully managed the automation of UPS’s finance and accounting systems, then-CIO Frank Erbrick asked him to trade in his bean-counter’s visor for a propeller hat. Lacy agreed to make the leap and became operations manager for IT in New Jersey, the site of one of UPS’s two huge data centers. In September 1996, he took over the CIO reins upon Erbrick’s retirement. Today the 53-year-old Lacy presides over an annual IT budget averaging $1 billion and sits on UPS’s management committee.

Lacy played a key role in shifting much of UPS’s business online. “UPS had tracking and order entry in the very early ’90s,” Erbrick says. “Ken was very instrumental in that.” Under Lacy’s watch, the Atlanta-based company has developed an IT infrastructure that makes it possible for UPS to capture data electronically on 90 percent of the 13.6 million packages it ships daily. Each time a package is scanned in transit, data from its smart label is uploaded to a gargantuan DB2 database, enabling customers to track the status of their packages online or on the phone around the clock.

Having “grown up” (as he puts it) on manual systems and lived through their computerization, Lacy is keenly aware of the business drivers behind his IT strategy?and knows how to build a winning team to execute it. “Any job you have, you have to manage it like your own business,” says Lacy. Accountability and respect also figure prominently in his management style. “You’ve got to be a team player and treat your people with respect because they’re the ones who really do the job,” he says.

Erbrick calls Lacy a superb manager and affirms that he is the ultimate team player. “He works hard and is always willing to admit when he doesn’t understand,” says Lacy’s former boss. “Ken builds harmony like few people can. And he truly knows the business.”