Premier 100 IT Leader profile: Ralph Loura

Ralph Loura, CIO of Clorox, recently took a political risk and lived to tell the tale.

During the annual planning process at the maker of household cleaning products, three projects were competing for the same funding. Two were new initiatives with "strong business leaders and good business cases," Loura says. The third was an IT integration proposal -- a "cleanup" kind of deal that had been postponed for years.

Loura, 47, backed the cleanup project.

In the end, part of the funding went to the integration and part of it went to one of the new projects. But, Loura says, he learned a few things from the dust-up.

First, "you have to fight" for the foundational IT projects that are important to the company's long-term growth, he says. Second, the executives involved now "have a much better understanding of each other," and that's a good thing. "The best client managers are those who do a good job of saying no, and can challenge a fairly powerful business client and stick to their guns," Loura says.

Linda Martino, vice president of business applications and one of Loura's direct reports, says her boss's political acuity is one reason she's glad he's at Clorox. "He's helped socialize the other executives that IT is an ongoing improvement process and not just a one-time investment," she says. "He's really energetic and has brought hope. [Employees] now have a senior leader with vision."

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