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...

...sunrise work around all the IT shops and our suppliers follow sunrise work in other countries. You can expect to have the same services if you are in Brazil, Argentina, Dubai, China, Russia," Martinez Galindo said.

Despite the handing over of many processes to outsourcing companies, GM IT staff are still accountable for the running of IT operations and have to manage a complex governance framework.

"If we have an outage, my team manages the crisis and brings all the proper actions to go back into production. We're very, very hands-on in the operations," Martinez Galindo said.

When it comes to the cloud, GM is taking a hybrid approach, making use of both hosted software, which it uses for its CRM, as well as a global private cloud and is gradually deploying technology - such as sales, after-sales, financials and HR applications - into the environment as and when it makes sense. However, this doesn't mean it will make sense for everything. The company is likely to follow a number of hosting strategies which will also encompass public cloud and dynamic hosting.

"The good part of being part of a company the size of GM is that it's a global internal cloud, so that's extremely powerful. Economies of scale matter in this business," Martinez Galindo said, referring to the private cloud.

"As part of our revamping of the applications, we do capacity planning, the engineering, and we find the right time to bring them into the private cloud or the virtualised environment," he added.

Product design and technology

Product design is one area taking advantage of technology with GM Europe optimising its vehicle development cycles through greater use of IT. The use of data, simulations and virtual reality is allowing engineers to see how vehicles will behave and identify potential quality issues without having to build a prototype.

"We have reached a high level of sophistication that is first reducing our vehicle development cycle and second reducing our cost of producing vehicles. Today we can do crash simulations in a virtual environment and analyse things before you even start to build a part and you can engineer in the specifications," Martinez Galindo said.

GM telematics technology such as Chevrolet's MyLink system

GM is developing telematics technology such as Chevrolet's MyLink systemPhoto: GM

The importance of this technology means GM has been "very active" in investing in supercomputer technology to support the design work, according to the CIO.

GM is also working extensively on telematics, or the long-distance transmission of computerised information, through its US-based OnStar division, which among other things could see technology that allows people to check the charge level of their electric car remotely.

"It's an amazing technology. I think it's a clear statement of GM investing in the future and new technologies," Martinez Galindo said.

Everyone is a CIO

While Martinez Galindo may be GM Europe's head honcho when it comes to setting IT strategy, he's not the only CIO.

"I ask all my members of staff to think and act as the CIO of their own area and that has triggered very interesting behaviour around accountability, empowerment and innovation," he said.

The behavioural changes related to the increased responsibility given to staff include...