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Using IT as a Competitive Advantage

By Klas Bendrik, CIO, Volvo Cars


Klas Bendrik, CIO, Volvo Cars

Simplicity in Integrations of Technology

My expectations from technology providers are that they keep their promises and not only the technical or software parts of their promises but actually the business part of their promises as well. Technology or software is not worth anything if it does not deliver business value the customer and/or corporate. This will be more relevant than ever in the year 2014.

We have such a wide spectrum of technology around us today as individuals, employees and as part of corporate structures. In this perspective I see a challenge in bringing new exciting solutions into the existing eco-systems of technology around individuals, employees, customers and various types of organizations. If it is not done in a proper way, it will not provide additional benefits, and will only add complexity as well as cost without business value! So based on this, one item high on my wish list for 2014 is simplicity in integrations, between various types of technology, both old and new!

Acting Quick Enough Given the Long Development Cycles

For us in Volvo Car Group we strive towards using IT as a competitive advantage–this means that we foremost would like to leverage IT in order to drive customer benefits and customer loyalty via our products. This also means we have a focus on having the right solutions in the whole value chain to support a profitable partnership all the way from suppliers to dealers and the aftermarket. In order to be competitive over time we are also investing heavily into the shortening lead times in the process of developing new cars, models and platforms. This development of more rapid business processes would not be possible without more virtual and integrated development which is highly enabled by hardware, software and skilled people who know how to leverage them. The last and final area for us is to leverage IT into making the company more efficient internally within traditional areas like manufacturing, logistics, finance and HR.

With all the great business opportunities we have available today based on technology, software and business disruption happening in other industries, one of the things that keeps me awake at night, is the ability for us as a company to act quick enough. In automotive, we have fairly long and complex development cycles for our products/services but the world around us with modern technology gives us an array of opportunities for improved customer benefits. In this domain, I, as a Group CIO focus heavily to boost further benefits for our car customers as well as the internal IT users, but I would really like this to go even faster!

Cloud and Internet of things: Trending now

There are many trends in technology and business that are important for a CIO in general but for me as CIO in an automotive company I would highlight two trends A) The actual usage of “cloud based” systems and applications dramatically changes the way we can implement new/updated business capabilities in a much more cost efficient manner. It has been discussed for a number of years but during the past 24 months I can see a clear trend for us in the increased usage and benefits in using cloud solutions for more rapid deployments and quicker return on investments.

B)  Internet of things would be the other and most important trend which  will have a significant impact on automotive and the ecosystem around the car and its users/customer. This has also a big opportunity with regards to autonomous drive, one of the key focus areas for Volvo Cars, since it involves technology in the car, communication between cars and communication between car and the infrastructure/road systems around the car which all have a very strong link to Internet of things.
My Role as a CIO

As CIO for Volvo Car Group, my first priority was to separate Volvo Car Group from Ford Motor Company. The next step was to build an independent and integrated IT organization in Volvo Car Group. This also meant building and identifying a new IT strategy based on the business strategy towards 2020. During the past years we have also had a significant increase in our operational and business development portfolio based on globalization and  expansion of our business which has been an integrated part of the CIO role to both lead and drive the prioritization of the initiatives as well as to  secure the delivery of these initiatives.

During this period we have also seen a significant increase in the automotive industry with regards to “connectivity”, this has happened in other industries prior to automotive but is now a key focus area for many stakeholders in the eco-system around transportation, the car and the car-owner. This development with eventually lead to much higher customer value once the concept of autonomous drive will be enabled. Autonomous Drive and Connectivity into the cars will change the way we drive cars, the way we own and use cars as well as the way
we design cars.

Based on all the above, my role as CIO is constantly being more and more integrated into the core business of an automotive company which also  shows that IT is more widely than ever perceived to a vital enabler for business success, also within an automotive company. A few practical examples of this for example that I as a Group CIO facilitates the process, on behalf of the group, to prioritize our operational and business development projects in our business plan cycles. Other examples of the integration and changes during the past years is the presence of the Group CIO in a number of our strategic forays with regards to our business, marketing, product, service and innovation strategies.

Advice for Fellow CIOs

A)  Business and customer orientation, as a CIO (and from my perspective all business leaders) you need to have a very strong understanding of the business strategies and what is means for IT. Without this someone else will take the leadership and you will soon be marginalized as a technology manager and not a business leader who happens to work with IT.

B)  Leaders, managers, employees and partners – they are the key assets for you as CIO, because even if we work with hardware, software and technology. It is all about people to make it happen, so to have the right people around you is vital.

C) Set a strategy and give people the freedom to act within the boundaries. In order to be swift, nimble, high performing and be an employer of choice company I strongly believe in leveraging the capabilities of the people and the organization. By clear strategies, direction and the ability to act you can create and organization which delivers, innovates as well as plans for the future and is aware of what is happening within your industry as well as in other industries. All these are very relevant capabilities for a company under development and in any industry, including the automotive industry.

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