Over his four-plus years as CIO at Terex, Andrew Campbell has dramatically repositioned the IT organization. The 88-year-old corporation manufactures commercial equipment for the construction, infrastructure, shipping and transportation industries plus a variety of others. When Campbell first joined the company in 2016, IT was not viewed as a strategic asset. Campbell said the team did not feel viewed as contributors to the business.
Campbell quickly changed those perceptions. By running the IT organization like a business, Campbell has built trust with the C-suite and earned recognition for their contributions to the business. He has become a facilitator, an enabler, and a leader of innovation.
“It’s an exciting opportunity to be that connective tissue across the company,” Campbell said.
According to recent research by IDG, 82% of CIOs say that they have implemented new technologies, IT strategies and/or methodologies due to the pandemic. Campbell and his team are proudly part of that majority--but getting there took some work for Terex.
“We’re kind of an old iron bending company. We make big machines,” Campbell said. “Leadership didn’t grow up digital, so I said, ‘That’s got to change.’ Every aspect of today’s world is driven by technology – how can it not be showing up in strategy discussions?”
Campbell teamed with his CEO to spearhead a C-Suite Innovation Council early in his role, quickly scaling up a digital agenda. He first brought in the CEO, CFO and Chief of Strategy with a plan to put accelerant on digitizing their product line. Being a legacy manufacturer of material handling equipment, like earth movers and boom lifts, Terex had to prioritize connectivity and IoT enablement for its new products, according to Campbell.
“We absolutely have to have connected devices. I don’t care what it is,” Campbell said. “If it has battery or an engine, it needs to be connected, and that has to go into our strategy.”
He said he wasn’t nervous bringing this forward, because he was confident he could demonstrate a different value proposition for Terex’s customers. Notable advancements in the area accelerated across the company’s business lines “once innovation was not a scary word anymore,” he said.
The fruits of this focus-shift have been tangible, even despite the global health crisis that could have slowed the company’s transformation efforts.
“Coming all the way through the pandemic last year, we released 30 new products,” Campbell said. “Of those, 28 were native connected devices.”
A key to Campbell’s rapid innovation strategy— don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Terex is not fixated on new science invention, he said. They study the products and technology that are available now and decide how to innovate on top.
“We use the term ‘purposeful innovation.’ We take ideas that have been used elsewhere and apply them to change our safety, our margin, our revenue and our stickiness, in a way that our industry had not thought of before,” Campbell said.
Campbell’s team is working on engineering a line of IoT-connected, software-controlled boom lifts. This new equipment, to be produced by subsidiary Genie Industries, will be mechanically capable of a variety of maximum parameters, but governed by software based on the use case. This will build efficiency into production, diminishing the need for a wider variety of products, and more appropriately structure the pricing model for equipment rentals.
“Basically, software control says you are renting a capability to go 20 feet in the air. That’s what I’ll sell you, the capability, not the machine,” Campbell said. “Now the rental houses get their rental rates up.”
This strategy has delivered for Terex on two fronts.
“We’re bringing true value to our customers and our shareholders, ultimately, when we make ourselves more efficient,” Campbell said.
The pace at which Terex has innovated since early 2020 would not be possible without a strong culture fostered by leadership. Campbell elevates his team— he enables critical thinking by giving his staff permission to take calculated risks. By being a sponsor for his people, Campbell and his IT team have produced in an impactful way.
“As IT delivers real bottom line contributions, it changes the way people in the company actually think about our products.”
The CIO’s Role in the Business
The impact that IT has on bottom line growth is clearer than ever. Because of this, Campbell advocates for technology leaders having a more pronounced role in measuring business success and forming future goals.
“One aspect of an IT career that penalizes technologists the most is not having P&L [profit and loss] responsibility,” he said.
Since revenue can be dependent on technology, technology leaders should have a seat at that table, even if it’s not a traditional responsibility.
“It makes you think differently about running a business. CIOs shouldn’t be afraid to have top-line and bottom-line numbers put in their metrics as long as they are able to show what they are doing to affect those.”
Having a lens into the business allows a CIO to show demonstrable evidence for IT as a value driver. Otherwise, revenue growth could be chalked off as an achievement for sales or engineering teams.
It’s also extremely useful to leverage strong partner relationships to identify and execute on new opportunities for innovation. “Terex and AWS have partnered for years to drive efficiencies and agility into our day-to-day IT operations,” said Campbell. “We have expanded our engagement leveraging new AWS capabilities to drive product quality initiatives, smart manufacturing and tackling data opportunities that all deliver more value for our customers.”
Pushing Past Doubt
Leading an IT team to be innovative and agile is crucial--but forecasting future goals can be tricky with a constantly moving target. The return to a `new normal’ is being redefined day by day.
This uncertainty translates to ambiguity in the roles each employee is playing, and where they can see their value being delivered.
“As a leader, in technology or otherwise, it’s important to help people through ambiguity,” Campbell said. “I make sure my team understands they are actually providing a value contribution, not just an activity contribution.”
The results can be seen in the advancement in Terex’s products and ultimately in the customer experience the company is delivering. He reassures his employees at all levels that by running their individual projects they have helped change the value proposition for the company’s end customers.
“That’s going to help drive out the angst that comes with uncertainty.”
- Innovative technology executives must constantly evaluate their IT strategies as cutting-edge developments such as IoT can bring value—even to traditional manufacturers
- CIOs should strive for a stronger voice in overall business strategy, and can’t be afraid to report on bottom-line numbers and their teams’ impact on business transformation
- Courageous leadership means providing clarity in times of uncertainty and ambiguity, ensuring employees understand their value and are motivated to innovate