Creating a Tangible Impact through Collaboration

Matt Schlabig, CIO, Worthington Industries
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How would you describe the role of a CIO today?

I spend less time today on technology and more time with our senior leaders understanding the needs of their business and how our team can drive positive business outcomes. Historical IT metrics of system availability, project on-time delivery, help desk call handle time, etc. are good internal metrics, but don’t tell the whole story. Our team focuses on partnering with the business for solving problems, achieving strategic objectives and driving our first corporate goal at Worthington Industries; earning money for our shareholders and increasing the value of their investment.

How can the CIOs make their business counterparts think differently about the importance of IT?

We often discuss this topic as a leadership team. Our phrase is “What is board room or senior team worthy?” What activities are we doing that get the attention of our senior executives that IT is enabling our business to achieve?

My colleagues in the business are looking for us to have tangible impact and we do that through more collaboration and less order taking. We have a number of people in IT that started with our company working on our manufacturing shop floor. They bring us immediate credibility because they understand the challenges our facilities face every day. We’re out there on the shop floor working side by side with the business, seeing their pain points and processes first hand. It’s through those kind of interactions that we build trust and get our business counterparts thinking differently about the solutions we can provide.

  ​The biggest impact we can have is when our team members spend time at our plants assisting with a lean activity or solving problems together  

As the technology sphere evolves with each passing day, what are some of the latest trends that are gripping your mind?

The challenge for our team is the rapid pace of change in cybersecurity. New threats arise each day with hundreds of new tools available to help thwart those threats. Deciphering what investments are appropriate for our type of business and provide long-term solutions is very difficult. Educating our employees about these threats is a focus for our team, while building the right capabilities to monitor and defend our environments is a crucial objective.

Moving from traditional IT to a service offering model requires a major mindset shift in IT. How did you make that happen?

The biggest impact we can have is when our team members spend time at our plants assisting with a lean activity or solving problems together. The more we understand and can relate to their issues or opportunities, the better we can contribute to the solutions. Traditional days of waiting for the phone to ring don’t add much value to our business. Some of our biggest successes started with a conversation with someone on our shop floor describing a challenge that we ended up solving together. For example, we were recently awarded the 2016 Information Week Elite 100 for Best Use of Mobile with our innovative Bill of Lading eSignature and Mobile Inventory Scanning and Tracking (MIST) apps. Through the creation of the Bill of Lading eSignature application, IT was able to help our truck drivers get their steel loads quicker and be on their way faster. No more physically walking back to the shipping office to sign and receive paperwork–now it’s all done with a tablet and wireless printer, right at the point of pick-up/delivery.

What changes have you seen in the IT operating model of your organization during the last five years?

We are slowly migrating away from a team that maintains and modifies our ERP systems each day to more of a solution provider. Five years ago analytics didn’t really exist, cybersecurity was not at the forefront of our business, mobility was in its infancy, and quite frankly, we were seen as a cost center that “maintained email and the network.” Today, although not perfect, we have become more of a partner that works directly with the business to help solve problems and realize opportunities together.

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