In its many years of doing business, B&G Foods never had a chief information officer — until meeting Chris Colla, an alumnus of the School of Business at Stevens.
Colla, who earned a master’s in Information Management in 2007 and a graduate certificate in Business Process Management and Supply Chain Electives in 2011, said he was recruited to the CIO position at B&G by a search firm that was impressed with his educational background as well as his experience — Colla held management positions at Haier America, Sharp Electronics, Sirius XM, Diageo and Accenture.
Stevens, Colla said, helped change how he thinks about the relationship between IT and business.
“Information technology is not just technical anymore,” he said. “It’s a combination of people, processes and technology that has evolved to become a business driver and a source for competitive advantage. You used to just program; now, you have to be able to talk business and negotiation, and make systems and software work to meet those goals.”
Aligning corporate strategies
In his new position as CIO and vice president of IT, Colla is responsible for using technology to align the company’s IT and business strategies. He manages IT system projects, sets and manages budgets, and ensures business processes are dynamic and constantly evolving.
B&G Foods and its subsidiaries manufacture, sell and distribute a diversified portfolio of high-quality, branded shelf-stable and frozen foods across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Based in Parsippany, NJ, B&G Foods’ products are marketed under many recognized brands, including Ac’cent, Baker’s Joy, Cream of Wheat, Emeril’s, Mrs. Dash, New York Style, Ortega and many others. It’s also growing — late last year, B&G acquired Green Giant from General Mills. “I am working now on making that integration as seamless as possible through the use of technology,” Colla said.
Colla got his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Mount Union College, in Alliance, Ohio, in 1995, but when he was looking for a graduate degree, he said, “I wanted a tech-first university with a strong business acumen. Stevens has professors who have been in industry and do research with real companies, which is what made me choose it.”
Stevens courses, Colla said, gave him insight into finance, data, leadership, process management and strategic thinking.
“Earlier in my career, I was more reactive,” he said. “Stevens helped me to be more proactive. I’m able to align our business with what’s going on and what our competitors are doing.”
Colla has stayed close to his alma mater. He remains in touch with his professors — including information systems professors Dr. Michael zur Muehlen and Dr. Ted Stohr, both of whom Colla called excellent — and was invited by the dean, Dr. Gregory Prastacos, to participate with other alumni as the school sought accreditation from AACSB last year.
“I still think of Stevens as my school,” Colla said. “I had so much fun there. And my graduate coursework really set me up for the career success I’ve enjoyed.”