by Richard Pastore

CIO Hall of Fame: David V. Evans

Sep 15, 19974 mins
CIOIT Leadership

That IT is perceived today as an essential business tool can be traced to Evans.

Career Highlights

Today: Senior vice president and director of information systems, J.C. Penney Co. Inc., Plano, Texas
1995: Elected senior vice president and management committee member at J.C. Penney
1987-95: Vice president and director of information systems, J.C. Penney
1964-1987: Various positions, from systems analyst to president, J.C. Penney Telemarketing Inc.
Education: Studied accounting at the University of Wisconsin

If there’s a single message I’ve given people over the years, it’s ‘get your costs right.’ Having a very efficient and effective organization is fundamental,” says Dave Evans, J.C. Penney’s IS chief for the past 10 years. Evans has delivered this message through example: J.C. Penney’s IS budget as a percent of revenue is down about 30 percent since 1987, “and I don’t think we’ve given anything up in doing that,” he says.

 Evans’ facility with the dollars derives from his fluency with both the business and its technology, the number-one skill combination in demand for today’s ideal IT chief. “Unlike many CIOs, who know either the technology or the business extremely well and are not very good on the other, he’s great on them both,” says Jack Rockart, director of MIT’s Center for Information Systems Research and senior lecturer for the Sloan School of Management. “He pays as much attention to doing the job technically well as he does to doing it well from a business perspective.”

That IT is perceived today as an essential business tool also can be traced to Evans. Max Hopper, former IS chief at AMR Corp. and Sabre chairman, says Evans was “the first CIO I knew who got management to agree that the IT function was a necessary part of doing business and didn’t require rejustification every year. I think that was a tremendous accomplishment.” The fact that Evans had been a line manager himself certainly didn’t hurt his credibility; he ran the J.C. Penney telemarketing business unit in his pre-CIO days.

Evans’ influence in the retail industry goes back to the pioneering days of EDI. J.C. Penney was one of the earliest members of the group that established standards for EDI information exchange and point-of-sale and shipping-container bar-coding. Evans has also been a major player in advancing the science of collecting and applying customer data. “We capture every item of every sale for every customer,” he says. “We know our gross margin on the item and how the person paid for it, where the person lives, in which store she bought it and on what day of the week.” That kind of customer intimacy has shifted the balance of power from merchandise suppliers to retailers over the past decade.

The genial Evans doesn’t like to talk about balances of power, however, and tends to avoid the limelight. Yet everybody knows his name. “He is a very personable individual; he makes a lot of personal contacts and he’s willing to share,” Hopper says. Evans’ peers on The Research Board Inc., an elite group of international CIOs studying best practices, trust his judgment so much that they unanimously chose him to lead their searches for research topics, says Naomi Seligman, senior partner for the New York-based group.

Today, J.C. Penney is trusting Evans to guide the company into the Internet age. The retailer sold its first merchandise over the Web in December 1994, and its bridal registry network could be described as one of the private sector’s first “extranet” applications. Evans’ foresighted choice three years ago to migrate from IBM’s SNA to the Internet’s TCP/IP standard has brought Internet power to 1,600 J.C. Penney locations. To sell this costly infrastructure conversion to the management team, Evans again drew on his business/technology fluency. “It’s one of the CIO’s hardest jobs because it’s so difficult to directly relate business benefits to improved infrastructure,” he says. “I think our ability to do that has put our company in a wonderful position now to take advantage of the Internet.”