GM CIO Randy Mott spoke at the Hanover automotiveIT Congress in March (Photo: Larry Peplin)

More than halfway into a massive three-year project to transform IT at General Motors, Randy Mott is confident he's making progress. The CIO, who joined the largest North American carmaker in February, 2012, cites advances on many fronts:

Ӣ Following an agreement withHP,GM's largest IT partner, in late 2012, Mott has brought the bulk of IT services in-house

Ӣ GM has hired 1,000s of specialists for its growing IT operation

ӢTo achieve his goal of more innovation and development in the company, Mott established four new GM "innovation centers" in Warren, Atlanta, Chandler near Phoenix and Roswell, Georgia

Ӣ IT has been largely consolidated in a new data and command center in Warren, Michigan. Another center is being built in Milford nearby. It will open mid-year.

"In 2013 we did a lot of blocking and tackling," said Mott, using an American football term that refers to the often unglamorous defensive activities that are fundamental to a football team's success. "There will be less of that in 2014 and more emphasis on innovation in 2014. And in 2015, we'll move a further step in that direction."

In an interview with the automotiveIT International Executive Report at GM headquarters in early 2014 he explained some of the progress made so far. A big part of the program involves getting the people needed to handle all IT functions in-house. GM had roughly 2,000 IT staff in late 2012. By the end of 2013, that number stood at slightly more than 7,000. About 3,000 joined the automaker when GM took over many key IT functions from HP. "It's been a whirlwind year," Mott said, adding that he plans to recruit another 2,000 staff in 2014 and early 2015.

Data centers

One of Mott's goals in bringing all IT in-house was to make sure that his team could play a bigger and more proactive role in helping GM achieve its business objectives. Being directly in charge of his staff, Mott would be in a position to run a more efficient operation, develop standard, global solutions for the whole company, and roll out new products faster.

The Warren data center and the adjacent command center are a case in point. GM opened the 130 million-dollar facility in May, 2013, and is bringing together all hardware and software functions there in support of global product develop- ment, manufacturing, marketing, sales and OnStar applications. The command center, where IT specialists monitor all GM operations for potential problems is another example of how the carmaker is imposing discipline on its global IT.

Previously, IT service providers, including HP, Capgemini, IBM, AT&T and others, moni- tored IT operations worldwide. "They would tell us what happened in the GM IT environment," said Mario Lucarelli, global director enterprise operations management at GM. "The move to an in-sourced model gave us full visibility and control of our own destiny."

Big data potential

GM's new innovation centers are where Mott has to prove that his big new IT operation is truly helping GM. Mott gives two examples: of success: Working closely with North American sales teams, IT has provided dealers with new iPad apps to better service car-buying customers and it has rolled out a more usable web interface for the retail operations. "This has been done in two to three months, not the usual 12-to-18 months," Mott said. IT has also been closely involved in improving customer experience and quality. Call centers have been brought in-house and new tools have been developed to capture and respond to customer and quality issues.

One area where Mott sees huge challenges and great potential is big data. "Our enterprise data strategy is a very fundamental enabler for us," he said in the interview,. When he joined GM, getting the right information was difficult. "I said 19 months ago" I'm the chief information officer but I don't seem to be able to give the company information very well." Since then, Mott has retired 55 data marts, where partial information was stored, and he pledges to close another 65 this year. With all company data stored centrally, Mott feels he will be better able to provide the kind of analytical tools needed. Said the GM CIO: "We want all data available in a way that allows us to look at the business consistently across the globe."

-By Arjen Bongard

(EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was first published in the March edition of the automotiveIT International Executive Report)