How We Put Technology at the Core of Business Strategy

HBM recently welcomed Michael Chill, VP of Information Technology.  A newly established enterprise-wide position, Michael’s role supports the management teams of HBM’s portfolio companies and plays a key role in the due diligence process.

HBM is unique to have an IT Leadership role at the holding company level.  What were the factors that lead to this decision?   

We are in an age of significant disruption, where no industry seems to be immune. Businesses who were once leaders in any given field are needing to adapt quickly to competitive threats rising from technology – whether it is to offer superior customer experiences, better flow of information and communication, improved manufacturing processes, or even enhanced cyber-security protection.  The sectors in which we invest are experiencing rapid technological change, and we see the opportunity to be at the forefront of these dynamics.

Our philosophy regarding the role of technology is not just operational; we defined strategic-level objectives such as advancing productivity, enabling data-driven decisions and satisfying our customers.  Technology plays a critical role in our businesses ability to grow, deliver excellent quality products to our customers and manage risk.

Where most critical business systems, like production, customer service and purchasing, would not have much to gain from the crowdsourcing of ideas, technology is a different animal in this regard.  One idea may be applicable to a variety of our businesses needs.  A key learning in one area will migrate and adapt and become a solution for another area.  The strategies and solutions tend to build on each other, offering a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

This becomes a key area of support that our management teams benefit from.  Even with their own IT support systems in place, our portfolio companies still see the value in the strategic-level thinking and cross-company support we provide.  It is certainly a differentiating factor for us when company owners are choosing which long-term financial partner they will ultimately decide to work with.  It sets HBM apart.

What are your near and long-term goals?

My role is fundamentally split between two main objectives:  (i) drive strategic outcomes: modernizing our manufacturing systems, securing intellectual property and advancing the availability of real-time information to make decisions; and (ii) support for HBM’s M&A function, identifying upfront opportunities and potential vulnerabilities of businesses we seek to acquire.

We have a whole host of projects ongoing that will enable us to better align IT against our business objectives, namely, how to help our businesses grow and how to position them to provide a superior customer experience.  We are implementing advanced business intelligence to enable better decisions, common enterprise-wide back office applications to deliver productivity gains and flexible infrastructure to keep up with the pace of industry change. We are also focused on developing a collaborative and service driven culture to deliver on our business priorities.

We have a patchwork of excellence spread across the portfolio, as well as legacy areas that we need to address.  We are in the process of inventorying all of the services we deliver and comparing against the services that we are not.  Today, it looks a lot like a quilt and we want it to look like a blanket, with greater consistency.   We are identifying areas to develop better capacity and implementing technology where we can drive true benefit, such as improving productivity, business process automation, developing a platform to support our M&A function, and ultimately driving or enabling our business to grow by utilizing technology to advance their products or build their customer base.  Using the scale and scope of HBM, we can absolutely take advantage of all of these areas going forward.

The M&A due diligence process is a strategic-level focus that helps us identify not only business processes or technology that we see as particularly valuable at the enterprise level, but also be intelligent about areas that will need future investment.  With my involvement at the due diligence level, company management teams see the value upfront as well.

What is your philosophy on how IT professionals can help lead an organization?

Technology professionals continue to desire a “seat at the table.”  Even though there has been greater access at the CIO level to drive change and innovation, the IT function, generally speaking, still lacks the same interaction and credibility of our functional peers.  I am constantly asking myself how can we increase our recognition as business leaders.

I think of myself as a businessperson first, and an IT professional second.   I recommend other IT professionals start with the big picture to truly understand their respective businesses.  We need to know how the company satisfies its customers to appreciate the complexities of the product offerings and what problems they address.  We need to learn the market, understand the competitors and the customers, and grasp the long-term strategy of the company. And we need a common language…less tech speak and greater business acumen.

Only when we reach this level of mastery can we truly be a key component of driving value through technology.

How do you define disruption in your industries and how is HBM addressing the opportunity/challenges that are arising as a result?

We see major disruption happening within the industries that our portfolio companies operate.  The most prominent change is around productivity gains and the level of automation that is taking place across the manufacturing sphere right now.  This is driving us to constantly evaluate the improvements we can be making.  We are focused on modern manufacturing operational systems, such as ERP and any technology that helps physically manufacture the product, as well as shop floor systems that can make real-time adjustments to production based on defined thresholds.

The majority of our portfolio companies have legacy manufacturing systems so it will provide us a nice opportunity to leapfrog as the pace of change is so high.  There are many cloud-based models coming to market that expand our ability to address the opportunities.

In addition, we see disruption in our sectors getting faster, which only increases our need to remain highly flexible to capitalize on new technologies on a constant basis.

 

 

Michael’s contact information is as follows:

Michael Chill

Vice President of Information Technology

T: 314.376.2545

E: machill@hbmholdings.com

LinkedIn:  www.linkedin.com/company/hbmholdings

Twitter:  @HBMHoldings