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Opportunities for Integration and Innovation

By Nicholas J. Smither, Group VP & Chief Information Officer, Ford

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Nicholas J. Smither, Group VP & Chief Information Officer, Ford

he industry is going through a sea of change with several   approaches to encourage   creative thinking. We  have initiated innovation  contests organized by    IT, but open globally to everybody   inside the company. We have also   established an IT innovation fund  to enable ideas to be taken through   Proof of Concept to validate  feasibility and benefits. Our approach also means   reaching out to external   participation. For example we  recently launched the Ford Innovate    Mobility Challenge Series,which allows anyone to use Ford’s  OpenXC open-source software and hardware platform to experiment   with do-it-yourself projects using  real-time vehicle data. Developers    can use OpenXC data like any other    data source in a smartphone, tablet  or web app. As Ford approaches the sea of  change in which we live, we look   forward to working on The industry is going through a sea of change with   several trends assuming significance. Efforts over past decades have shifted focus from transactional    process automation (e.g. payroll, finance and accounting    applications) in the eighties to driving improvements   in time to market through product simulation and    manufacturing automation using CADCAM/CAE    during the nineties. Across the extended enterprise,   there have been continuous improvements with    increased integration of supplier and dealer capability.  More recently the focus has been to shift from mainly an   efficiency or productivity motivation, to enabling top   line growth and revenue.                                          

“As technology advances continue and consumer expectations relative to connectivity increase,there is untapped potential to enable rich customer experiences both inside and outside the vehicle”

The present technological era is more focused on   full integration of these systems with a vision to drive    seamless processes across the entire digital enterprise.  There is a very significant focus in the connectivity   space. The industry focus has historically been on  business connectivity with key partners, including  dealers and suppliers. More recently Ford has extended   connectivity to include the Vehicle and the Customer   with SYNC and My Ford Touch. As technology    advances continue and consumer expectations relative   to connectivity increase, there is untapped potential    to enable rich customer experiences both inside and   outside the vehicle.

 Although these developments have resulted in   unprecedented growth in capabilities, there is still much    room for advancement. The one feature which could  prove a game changer in the employee connectivity    space is a holistic, multiple platform solution for   secure enterprise adoption of BYOD. There are many    point solutions available today, but opportunities for  a fully integrated and secure solution with capability  for both individuals and enterprises remain, and offer   the potential for increased productivity and efficiency.

  Priorities for a CIO

  I believe the majority of CIOs face the same challenge:  Building organizational capability and human capital to support unprecedented levels of business demand.  Business demand for most   organizations is coming from three   sources: 1) The need to Integrate,    2) Technology Innovation, and 3)   Legacy Technology management.

 Integration: Most companies   have developed applications to    support individual activities, based    on functional or geographic needs. Those that have addressed cross    regional and/or cross functional    integration may be challenged with  new market or new acquisition   integration. In addition, every   company has opportunities    to integrate new technology   capabilities. In Ford’s case, one    example is a need to expand the    scope of IT into the vehicle.

  Technology Innovation: We are    fortunate to work in a profession    that is constantly changing. Many    of the technologies we are deploying    today did not exist a few years    ago, and that lifecycle continues    to accelerate. A great example is    the impact that the smartphone    has had on personal productivity    and customers’ expectations on Nicholas J. Smither    how they expect to interact with  enterprises. Every business domain    has many technology opportunities   that can drive efficiency or growth    that did not exist a year ago.

  Legacy Technology  management: Unless you are the    CIO of a startup, you have valuable    assets that require refresh, as    technologies become un-supported    or in-efficient. Platforms need to  support higher levels of integration    and enable mobile access that may    not have been previously required.  I believe that these demand    drivers will continue to have a    compounding effect in driving    IT demand as companies see the  benefit of the fully integrated    Digital Enterprise. The challenge    for us at Ford is to ensure that we  are building the organizational   capability and human capital    required to improve the business  whether it’s for productivity or top    line revenue growth.

 Towards Innovation  

At Ford, innovation is in the  heart of our DNA, which started    with the Model IT and the moving   assembly line, and is more recently  illustrated by SYNC, Eco Boost and    the Aluminum F-150. Internally,    we are at our very best when we   democratize innovation to make  it accessible to all. Innovation is  a concept that goes beyond the  headline grabbers to enabling    continuous improvement at all    levels. As a result, we deploy a wide    range of innovative activities On a global basis.

To encourage this effort throughout our IT team, we take several approaches to encourage creative thinking. We have initiated innovation contests organized by IT, but open globally to everybody inside the company. We have also established an IT innovation fund to enable ideas to be taken through Proof of Concept to validate feasibility and benefits.

Our approach also means reaching out to external participation. For example we recently launched the Ford Innovate Mobility Challenge Series,which allows anyone to use Ford’s OpenXC open-source software and hardware platform to experiment  with do-it-yourself projects using real-time vehicle data. Developers can use OpenXC data like any other  data source in a smartphone, tablet or web app.

As Ford approaches the sea of  change in which we live, we look forward to working on solutions together.

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