Hunter Muller interview helsinkiInnovation in, for example, manufacturing companies usually takes place in product development and processes inside different business areas or units. Hunter Muller from HMG Strategy, LCC, firmly believes that managing progressive technologies should not only happen on this level, rather it should be relevant all the way up to the top of the company.

“Everyone can innovate, and moving forward does not always result in the development of a new shiny object. Innovation happens at the core of the company when people, chains and business units interact, and the role of the C-suite should be to elevate those core initiatives. In my view, it has to be driven by the CEO and the C-suite, because otherwise innovation can be continually intermediated, cut down or even cut off”, Muller argues.

Especially now during the emergence of the industrial internet, taking technological issues into consideration when making important decisions would be in the best interest of an industrial company. This requires the willingness to transform the company – and giving the CIO a bigger role in compiling the company’s overall strategy would not be a bad idea either.

“The CIO must become the CEO of technology in order to facilitate, lead and enable true innovation. The industrial internet and IoT are largely about innovation and including customers representing different fields and markets in the innovation process. Companies that find a CIO who is equipped with interpersonal skills and can think like a CEO are going to win today, tomorrow and in the future.”

In the people business

Muller emphasizes that in order to propel technology-savvy thinking to reach a company’s management, certain renovations must be made. This requires the right people and the CIO should have a key role in the process.

“To make changes to a company’s culture you need champions of innovation, but also virtual platforms and tools to ensure that new ideas can spread across the whole company.”

In Muller’s view, strategic personal interaction has a strong role in increasing the relevance of technology in the C-suite.

“It’s all about people, and if you are not invited to take part in the right strategic discussions it’s hard to place technology at the forefront. The CIO has to understand the markets and the culture of the C-suite. You have to dial into the company culture and see what works and what doesn’t, a view many CIO’s lack at the moment. Much of the strategy is handled by business executives, and the CIOs are usually more a part of the after plot.”

Many new qualities are required from a skillful CIO and enhancing their role in companies would most likely be very beneficial. According to Muller, however, some companies are finding it a challenge to enable this.

"Looking at the future of technology from the viewpoint of value-creation, competitive edge and leadership style, there has never been a brighter moment in the history of the business."

"The CIO must be confident in and conversant with the latest technologies in the context of what matters to the business. They have a unique view across the enterprise and are able to see where all of the data, processes and people are. The CEO would like nothing more than to see the CIO take care of a whole strategic piece to help drive innovation. However, things like sensor technology and IoT are likely beyond the CIO’s reach, because he or she is often just keeping things running in terms of the core business and transactional systems."

New management approaches

In order for a CIO to succeed, they also need the right talent behind them, Hunter Muller argues.

“Industrial internet has huge implications towards talent recruitment and poses a big task for companies. Companies across the globe are searching for talent specializing in new technology. It’s a long and tough road ahead for a CIO if he doesn’t find the right kind of people.”

Even though Muller considers that there are still a few obstacles barring access for CIOs inside companies to harness their full potential, he has a positive view of the future.

“Looking at the future of technology from the viewpoint of value-creation, competitive edge and leadership style, there has never been a brighter moment in the history of business. It really comes down to the CEOs responsibility and allowing the CEO of technology to be a key executive. As I see it, at the end of the day, the dusty old automotive or insurance companies will eventually be technology companies.”

Hunter Muller is the President and CEO of HMG Strategy, LLC, the fastest growing provider of innovative thought leadership and networking events for CIOs and senior IT executives. Hunter is a globally respected IT strategist with more than 25 years of experience in IT leadership consulting and research.

HMG Strategy is the world’s foremost provider of pioneering networking events and thought leadership to support the 360-degree needs of the CIO/IT leader. The HMG Strategy global network of more than 80,000 senior IT executives, industry experts and world class thought leaders is the strongest and most trusted network of executives in the world.