From Windows 7 to being your own CIO, how IT is putting a tiger back in General Motors' tank

Interview: GM Europe CIO Alejandro Martinez Galindo on the role IT can play in turning a global business around...

...six areas: use technology to contribute to revenue and margin growth, improve brand perception, create capital efficiencies by simplifying technology, boost productivity, encourage innovation and address security and compliance.

There have been some fairly traditional projects taking place as part of GM Europe's tech revamp. Under the productivity and efficiency pillars, Windows 7 was rolled out to 23,000 users in just four months towards the end of 2010.

The Chevrolet Camaro

A rebooted technology strategy is on the agenda at General MotorsPhoto: GM

"That was a nice exercise to show the organisation's capabilities - we can do very complex projects without disrupting the business in a very short time," he said.

The Windows 7 implementation has given the organisation an opportunity to use more collaboration tech - such as SharePoint - and unified communications tools associated with the Microsoft OS.

"It's quite interesting to see how technology has really changed the way people work. Our employees can work without the traditional boundaries of the organisation - they don't need to be connected to the network and they can access all the systems and all the tools remotely," Martinez Galindo said.

Against the background of GM's recent financial woes, its no surprise that cost-cutting should be front of mind for the IT team at its European arm.

"We have been playing with technology to substantially reduce our costs. The first thing is you need to run your IT shop as efficiently as possible, which means the reduction of all the waste. We have done a major cost-reduction crusade to try to optimise our systems and services without diminishing the operations," Martinez Galindo said.

Through a programme of consolidation of hardware and software, IT operations costs have been reduced by 35 per cent in the past four years.

Hardware consolidation is continuing through datacentre consolidation, greater use of virtualisation and addressing end-of-support-life issues - that is, making sure the company's servers, workstations and network equipment doesn't become obsolete and lack technical support, allowing GM to avoid the need to pay for extended vendor support.

Outsourcing operations

One of the major factors that has allowed GM Europe's IT team to get on with the transformation is that many of the operational processes - as defined by the IT team - have been outsourced through various global outsourcing contracts with the likes of Capgemini, IBM and TCS.

Desktop operating systems, phone systems, satellite communications, firewalls and datacentres have all been outsourced and now follow the sunrise - meaning support and services are always available when needed.

"That's one of our strengths - we deploy...