If The Shoe Fits
If The Shoe Fits Last year, when nordstrom was look- ing for someone to develop and oversee the online operations of its spin-off Nordstrom.com, the Seattle-based retailer wanted an executive experienced in the dot-com world but who also knew his or her way around a traditional corporate structure. Thats one reason Paul Onnen became Nordstrom.coms chief technology officer. "Ive been with four Internet start-ups but also with Intel and AT&T, where I had 12 levels of management over me," says Onnen, who manages the spin-offs information technology (IT) shop as well as its Web operations. "I know how both worlds work.""We had to be able to connect our Web site with 60 different shoe manufacturers, so they could ship shoes directly to our customers," Onnen says. "We manage all inventory for all these manufacturers and provide third-party fulfillment for those that cant drop ship themselves." Reporting directly to Nordstrom.com CEO Dan Nordstrom, Onnen oversees several other initiatives, including merging different databases so customers can use the Web to order inventory directly from any one of Nordstroms 100 stores around the country. "That way, they can order from the store and have their order wrapped and ready to go when they arrive." In his role as a dot-com IT chief, Onnen works closely with his corporate counterpart in supporting and updating legacy systems and integrating the old with the new. But ultimately, his report card will be "on how our Web site is perceived in public. The customer experience is really what counts most."
With more than 14 years of software development and a masters degree in computer science, Onnen is one of those e-com executives with a solid technical pedigree. Yet one of biggest initial challenges at Nordstrom.com was in launching an ambitious ancillary business, Nordstromshoes.com - what the retailer claims is now the worlds largest shoe store. The online store sells 30 million pairs of shoes annually.