GMs Global Mission

By Stan Gibson  |  Posted 2009-02-23 Print this article Print


Among the panoply of IT initiatives at GM, none is more crucial to the company's success than its support for the company's globalization push, under which the company has standardized on common applications and methods of designing and building automobiles in locations ranging from Michigan to Brazil, China and Russia.

"The ability to have people make decisions from wherever they are is critical. Being able to support people around the world through mobility and collaboration is the most important thing," Killeen said.

The drive to globalize at GM goes back about five years. Plagued by myriad office and auto-design applications, each adding cost and complexity to GM's overhead, the company launched an ambitious plan to streamline and consolidate.

Killeen said GM eliminated 300 applications in 2008, reducing its corporate total from 2,200 to 1,900. Back in 1996, when Szygenda took the reins at GM, the application total was a budget-busting 7,000. At that time, Szygenda has estimated, GM had the highest IT costs per vehicle in the auto industry.

Beyond achieving critical economies, the goal of globalization at GM is to enable units in far-flung locations to think and act as a common part of a single corporate organism, the company said.

In carrying out this plan, GM standardized on certain key software applications: the Siemens NX enterprise CAD application; the Siemens Teamcenter Community platform, a collaborative platform for engineers; Microsoft Communicator for instant messaging; and Microsoft SharePoint Server for virtual meetings.

Twenty thousand GM engineers have used SharePoint Server as part of the Teamcenter Community platform for several years. Now GM is making those collaboration tools available to the rest of the enterprise.

"It's a rationalized set of systems to run globally," said Killeen.

The expected benefits to GM of a unified global approach are greater efficiency and lower costs. In tough economic times, Killeen pointed out, SharePoint Server offers the added benefit of keeping corporate travel to a minimum, since employees are able to conduct virtual meetings with one another rather than having to get on planes to visit remote sites. To further reduce travel costs, Killeen is looking into adding IP-based audio and video conferencing to the mix.

Although nations in every corner of the globe are suffering in the current economic crisis, some are better off than others. The ability to target vehicle production in markets where there is demand is a beneficial dividend of GM's globalization strategy.

"Some areas are less affected than others. Places like China are continuing to grow. Russia is probably similar. Emerging markets are still growing but slower," 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 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.

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