General Motors CTO Fred Killeen keeps an eye on globalization and new models during the economic crisis. IT management must consider newer approaches such as virtualization, cloud computing, instant messaging and video conferencing to maintain efficiency and keep in contact with a widely distributed enterprise.
global financial crisis has thrown businesses across all industries into
disarray, with the auto industry being one of the most tempest-tossed. And
perhaps no company is suffering to a greater degree-or more publicly-than General
a multibillion-dollar federal bailout package in the offing, GM is
consolidating and tightening its operations, reducing its number of vehicle
lines and putting new plant openings on hold. IT, like all parts of the
company, is under the microscope.
get scrutinized harder and harder every day. Projects that are discretionary
are getting put on hold," GM CTO Fred Killeen said in an
interview with eWEEK.
keeping with its classic role of supporting business operations, when an older
plant is closed or a new plant opening is delayed, IT must keep in step. "A
lot of the IT costs that we have are tied to the facilities we have," Killeen said.
GM's IT business model is based on outsourcing, contracts with outsourcers are
written to be flexible enough to scale up when an acquisition is made or down
when a plant is closed and the scope of work provided by the outsourcer is
correspondingly curtailed. That kind of flexibility will come into play if talk
about GM selling units such as Hummer and Saab and consolidating brands like
Pontiac is borne out.
the world's No. 2 auto maker can't focus exclusively on damage control. To
emerge from the current crisis as a strong player and aspire to regain its status
as No. 1, GM must plow ahead with new vehicle designs as crucial new model
years loom on the horizon beyond the turbulent 2009.
critical they do not delay their future product programs," said John
Wolkonowicz, senior auto industry analyst for North America at IHS Global Insight,
an analysis and research firm. "They need to keep those on track. At the
end of the day, this is all about having the best products. 2011 is a critical
model year for both GM and Ford."
he has plenty of work to do to help his company ride out the financial storm, Killeen is not losing sight of
the need to align GM's IT initiatives with the company's larger strategic
"If you don't invest in the future of the
company, you won't have one. In a crisis, you have to decide what you need to
be here tomorrow and then what you need to be here in the future," said
Killeen and his GM IT team,
headed by CIO Ralph Szygenda, are avoiding panic and carrying
through with many current initiatives-in some cases, with renewed emphasis. "The
core principles that we have really have not changed. We have always had a
strong focus on efficiency and technology that supports globalization. Maybe
our sense of urgency and focus has increased," Killeen said.
Stan Gibson is Executive Editor of eWEEK. In addition to taking part in Ziff Davis eSeminars and taking charge of special editorial projects, his columns and editorials appear regularly in both the print and online editions of eWEEK. He is chairman of eWEEK's Editorial Board, which received the 1999 Jesse H. Neal Award of the American Business Press. In ten years at eWEEK, Gibson has served eWEEK (formerly PC Week) as Executive Editor/eBiz Strategies, Deputy News Editor, Networking Editor, Assignment Editor and Department Editor. His Webcast program, 'Take Down,' appeared on Zcast.tv. He has appeared on many radio and television programs including TechTV, CNBC, PBS, WBZ-Boston, WEVD New York and New England Cable News. Gibson has appeared as keynoter at many conferences, including CAMP Expo, Society for Information Management, and the Technology Managers Forum. A 19-year veteran covering information technology, he was previously News Editor at Communications Week and was Software Editor and Systems Editor at Computerworld.