Jim Maclennan, SVP and CIO at IDEX Corporation, and valued advisory board member of Argyle’s CIO membership, sat down with Argyle to share critical business insights into the role of the CIO, and how to successfully overcome challenges faced within the manufacturing industry.
What do you think it takes to be a successful IT leader today?
It’s pretty clear that an IT leader needs to have a solid understanding of their particular company’s strategy – their core value proposition, most valuable customers & markets, and style of competition that helps them differentiate and win. And they can’t stop there – an IT leader needs to truly be a good leader, and establish an engaging environment that helps the team do their best work.
What challenges do you think differ in your role as a CIO in the manufacturing industry as opposed to other industries?
It’s not what most people think – I mean, everybody fights tight budgets and high expectations. But there are important aspects of industrial manufacturing that are wildly different – like value chains that are heavily dependent on distribution, business models that assume different levels of cash flows, or core products that are highly resistant to share loss (which also means it’s tough to gain share).
How are you building an IT infrastructure that ensures and supports end to end quality control?
It’s a slow and steady process; we regularly drive the values of consistency and predictability, and we love automation for repeatable process. We are a highly decentralized organization, which makes all of this an interesting challenge.
Do you think manufacturing is ready to incorporate new age technology into their processes but also the products that they produce?
Absolutely – it’s already happening. The trick is to focus on where value is being created; “new tech” is nice and shiny, but we are good at dealing with widgets, not digits, and the skills and strategies required for success are really different.
How do you advocate for innovation as well as IT investment?
We focus on innovation methods that have succeeded in the past, and that are in line with our style of competition. Simply put – we listen to the customer and solve the problems that matter. There are a ton of really great product engineers on both sides (manufacturer and customer), with tons of great ideas; we just make sure that there is a business case behind these great ideas.
IT Investment is much the same; we listen to our “internal customers” and deliver what they are asking for – couched in a conversation that focuses on the value being generated by their request. We have a track record of success, and are focused on the right things; if we can’t get all the work done fast enough for the company, we can have a dollars and cents conversation about the incremental cost required to deliver incremental benefits.
James P. MacLennan (Jim) is Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer at IDEX Corporation, a Fortune 1000 manufacturer that sells highly engineered products to customers in a variety of markets worldwide. Jim has responsibility for Corporate IT services for IDEX’s portfolio of business units, and also drives innovation through initiatives that leverage Information and Technology as growth drivers for the industrial manufacturing space.