A Global Understanding Imperative in the Automotive World

Graham Waller, Research Vice President, Gartner

Cloud ERP, our Bread and Butter

We have fully embraced cloud computing at Inteva. We run our ERP system through the cloud—which is our bread and butter system. Cloud computing allows us to keep our costs low, keep our skill set at a higher operational level and not be bogged down by routine technical tasks.

Replace Applications that Prison Data

First of all, this is an issue across all industries—not just the automotive industry. I have found that many companies use older applications that treat data like a prison—data goes in and never comes out.

Data has cross-functional business uses and the challenge is in creating relationships between disparate systems to extract the correct data reports. For example, a sales person can input projections into a Sales Forecasting system, which would also benefit the finance department, but the finance department uses its own system and different terminology. There must be a way for business units to easily extract the needed data, regardless of the system, terminology, and skill sets of the people who input the data.

CIOs Focus on Process Improvements

Over the last few years, especially now that our business is in the cloud, my role has been more focused on process improvements, with emphasis on functional analysis and treating our business needs. I now have two process engineers in my team who help me with this as well.

I joke that I should be called the Chief Process Officer not the Chief Information Officer!

Service Provider vs. Just a Technical Expert

In today’s automotive world, a clear understanding of what ‘global’ means is imperative. I lived in Asia for seven years, which gave me an appreciation of the business culture. Equally important is learning to manage a global team. We have over 150 IT people across 42 locations and we must work together cohesively and compassionately to achieve our objectives.

It may sound cliché, but I would also recommend focusing on the business objectives in your organization. I believe other departments do this already, however we are lagging behind in IT. In this sense, feel comfortable in your role as a service provider vs. just a technical expert. There was a time that we had to build and own every IT system and application. Today, I know that I can find a cloud ERP provider that has built the system better than we could, and at a lower cost. This frees up my employees to be able to do more important tasks.

Connected Technology Important for Business

We expect our lives and “things” to be connected and today, cars are a big part of that. In a manufacturing plant, being connected is an integral way of doing business. Our hourly employees are an important part of our network and we have begun to think about how everything from Google Glasses to hand-and-ring scanners makes jobs on the plant floor easier. I could see our employees having wearables someday for health and safety reasons. If there was an emergency in a section of our plant and our employees were wearing connected jackets, we could know if any employees were impacted by the emergency, immediately.

From a manufacturing supply chain perspective, we use connected technology to track all shipments. From a quality perspective, staying connected helps with customer satisfaction. Last month, our network provider’s technology caught the vast majority of issues, so outages were actually prevented and fixed before products were delivered. This helps us communicate to our employees and customers better, which leads to higher satisfaction and retention.

And finally, using connected technology helps our employees do their work more effectively, while being safer on the job—which makes everyone happier.

Easy-to-use CRM System

CRM systems are imperative because there should be continuity of customer knowledge. Our customers expect us to understand their business needs, regardless of the assigned sales person. However, sales teams move at an extremely fast pace and a good CRM system must be easy to use and should facilitate working from anywhere. If we don’t provide easy tools, then information won’t be tracked.

Focus of Cloud-Based Systems on Function

I’m proud of what we do at Inteva. I think we do things well and the reason is our main systems are cloud-based, which allows us to focus on process—not IT tasks.

Our industry is maturing and we need to train a new generation of workers. In order to do so in a global economy, we need to collaborate to take advantage of the rich knowledge base of our “experts.” I believe that connected technology allows us to train new workers regardless of location and lets us focus on stronger global process management.

To help other automotive companies, I would recommend the use of the cloud, along with more collaborative internal social media tools, such as Jive and Yammer. The key is to use technology that allows your team to connect quicker and better.