Shaklee Cleans Up with SAAS

Shaklee looks to the cloud to effectively align IT with business requirements.  

Shaklee was green before green was cool. Now the company is applying that forward-thinking philosophy to SAAS.

Shaklee, based in Pleasanton, Calif., has been around for more than 50 years. What started with a vitamin formulation developed by Dr. Forrest Shaklee has evolved into a broad spectrum of all-natural cleaning, nutritional and skin-care products that have recently won accolades from no less than Oprah Winfrey and nods in Time, Woman's Day and In Style, among many other magazines.

This is something of a resurgence for the company, which was taken private almost four years ago by Roger Barnett (now the company's chairman and CEO) and private equity organizations. In 1982, Shaklee was a Fortune 500 company, but between then and 2004, when the company was acquired, Shaklee had been shrinking, according to the company's CIO, Ken Harris.

Shaklee's new owners brought in a management team to turn the company around, including Harris, who was formerly CIO of companies such as Gap, Nike and PepsiCo.

One key objective for the company's new management was to make Shaklee relevant to a new generation of consumers, as well as to a new generation of independent sales representatives-the major channel through which Shaklee products are sold.

"When the new management came on, they really were looking to turn the company around in a number of different ways," Harris said. "I would say one of the most important things was to appeal to a younger demographic-to reach out to a younger demographic-in addition to the demo they had, which is an older generation. What we were looking to do was make sure that the current generation was joining on as reps as well as our existing reps. That meant, frankly, investing in a lot of new technologies."

The challenge was that Shaklee had under-invested for a number of years in its infrastructure. "Most of the systems were COBOL- or mainframe-based or client/server technologies coming out of the '80s," Harris said. "The technology here was very, very dated."

In addition, Shaklee is significantly smaller than other companies Harris has worked for. This meant Harris' budget was relatively smaller, but the breadth of applications he needed to implement wasn't.

"[At Shaklee,] we had the basic ERP [enterprise resource planning], finance systems, supply chain systems and HR [human resources] systems that we needed to support," he said. "We had a very active Web community that we needed to support. We had e-commerce. We had the full expanse. We didn't have maybe the same number of transactions, but the same kind of breadth."