Sanjay Rishi is CIO and group vice president, information technology, at Automotive Experience, the biggest division of US-based Johnson Controls.

Rishi runs a global IT operation with between 400 and 500 people worldwide, not including a "partner ecosystem" of companies that provide a broad range of IT services to JCI.The automotive division employs 80,000 people. Rishi, who was the global automotive industry leader at IBM, took up his current role 18 months ago.

JCI's Automotive Experience division makes automotive seating, overhead systems, door and instrument panels, and interior electronics. The group's other two divisions are Building Efficiency and Power Solutions.

In a wide-ranging interview at the Detroit auto show in January, Rishi talked to automotiveIT about new technologies, the challenges of data security and his reliance on a network of IT services providers.

automotiveIT: You're in charge of IT for the automotive division. How does that differ from the IT services provided to the other two divisions of JCI?

Sanjay Rishi: The needs are very different. IT is aligned to business needs. Batteries, for example are heavily focused on the aftermarket, while we are largely focused on automakers. Building customers are very different again.

automotiveIT: And how do you cooperate?

Rishi: We continue to find areas of intersection. E-mail is a simple on, human resources applications and processes is another area. Where we try to leverage best practice and lessons learned is in infrastructure, data centers, standards and relationships with vendors.

automotiveIT: You've been in the job a year and a half. What has happened since you took over?

Rishi: Our business has become very global and what we've focused on is aligning IT to this new structure. We used to be significantly regional in how we ran the business and IT, thus, was also very regional. In October, 2010, we announced a significant transformation within the company and within IT.

automotiveIT: Can you give us some examples?

Rishi: We were running IT in our various regions. When common solutions were developed they were limited to the region. We've now moved to a global organization with a matrix structure across IT service lines. For example, anyone who does any application development anywhere in the world reports to a vice president who reports to me. That ensures we're not adopting regional solutions, we're not following disparate standards.

automotiveIT: What do you spend most of your time on?

Rishi: First, what I've focused on directly in the near term is the integration of the three large companies we acquired: C. Rob Hammerstein, Keiper and Recaro. It was extremely important that these companies were integrated. More strategically, I've focused on globalization and the need to adopt common processes and applications. I believe companies need to use technology as a catalyst to help them transform, so that's what we've focused on.

automotiveIT: Has the company been receptive to the idea of IT as an enabler?

Rishi: IT gains credibility and gets its license to transform only if what I call the dialtone is there. With the dialtone I mean the mundane stuff, such as connectivity, PCs, the infrastructure. You've got to get the basics right. The phones have to work, people need to be able to access information and e-mail wherever they are. Only if you get that right, do you get the license to transform the organization.

automotiveIT: And has the board of directors given you that license?

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Rishi: Portals to grow in importance (All photos: Larry Peplin)

Rishi: The board is very open and very supportive. It continues to look at IT as a strategic advantage and I have no reason to believe it will not continue to make signficant investment in technology. Our leadership team all the way up to the board of directors understands the value of technology and is committed to prudently deploying information technology across the company.

automotiveIT: Where does data security enter into the equation?

Rishi: Data security is of paramount importance. It's part of the dialtone I was talking about, but it's invisible and inaudible. It's something the organization expects, but noone gets to see it. It's part of the stuff that needs to be done right to get the license to transform. Data security is also one of the areas we leverage across JCI's three business areas. Automotive doesn’t need its own policies.

automotiveIT: Can you give us some examples of the work you've done in making JCI's data more secure?

Rishi: One of the things we've done is making the data center infrastructure more physically secure. We've done a lot of work consolidating data centers and getting the right kind of physical structure. We've also looked closely at protecting the data itself and how to protect it in a distributed environment around the globe. We work closely with business partners and solution providers to stay ahead of the ever-evolving information leakage.

automotiveIT: Do you allow staff to have their own end-user devices?

Rishi: We have published standards around what type of equipment you can use. Mobility is a big area that will be a huge lever for transformation. It's also important from an HR point of view. Young college graduates are used to social media and twitter, for example and the industry becomes more or less attractive to the young work force depending on how we enable technology. This is a challenge and an opportunity for IT organizations in the auto industry. With regard to end-user devices, largely speaking, devices that are provided by us have the right image on them. There are exceptions, but we try to provide our devices to our employees.

automotiveIT: How important is Cloud computing at JCI?

Many companies have had private clouds for a long time but didn't call them clouds. We have applications running on private clouds. We leverage resources effectively and will continue to do that. Will larger companies have the bulk of their data stored in the public cloud? NO. But in a private cloud, sure, why not?

automotiveIT: What about smaller companies moving data to the public Cloud?

Rishi: The public cloud provides a scaleable model for companies to increase or decrease their use of a resource. This pay-by-the-drink model is the biggest real advantage for companies. It provides opportunities for smaller companies that don't have the scale or the resources to build private clouds. Technology providers are quickly maturing to that model and I do see smaller companies getting on public clouds in a measured and secure way.

automotiveIT: How big is your annual budget?

Rishi: We are extremely lean, but we are investing in common processes and technologies, in product development, in information availability and in enterprise solutions. We are investing very heavily in making our organization global. We have to, with 250 sites and 80,000 people around the globe. But we've grown very fast and now it's time to commonize processes and applications.

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Rishi: Portals to grow in importance (All photos: Larry Peplin)

automotiveIT: So where does this investment go?

Rishi: We invest in software licenses, in infrastructure, services and data centers, in people and in our business partner and vendor ecosystem.  We now have astrategic global model how we contract,build and share responsibilities and how we leverage our business partner network. But our strategy is not to keep building headcount in line with the company's growth. We have to increase productivity so we can hopefully do more with the same ”“ or more with less.

automotiveIT: If you won't give us a number, can you say how your budget develops versus the company's revenue

Rishi: It's stable and if you add investments it's going up as a percentage of revenue. But we try to keep stable what we spend on running applications and infrastructure. And we try to get productivity and cost improvements and make investments in new technologies.

automotiveIT: Are you still looking for partners or suppliers?

Rishi: We have our strategy and our preferred vendor list is relatively complete. But we haven't closed the doors. We have matured the vendor management process from requirements to acquisition to how they deliver the work and how they are accountable. We didn't have that process a year and a half ago and it has significantly matured.

automotiveIT: In working with your customers, you obviously use a range of product lifecycle management suites. But what do you use for your own data management?

Rishi: For our design work, we will continue to use multiple design software products, because that is what customers require. For our own data management, we are about to make a formal announcement on what we have chosen. We now have legacy systems built on other legacy systems. We have all the players.

automotiveIT: How do you define IT's contribution to the business?

Rishi: If IT organizations just take orders, they don't add value. Organizations need to become value-based, not order-based.It’s a simple statement to make but it changes behaviors, culture and how you interact with the business. For example, if the purchasing organization asks for a supplier portal, with a particular kind of analytics and applications, we could run off and give them what they want and the conversation would stop. But in a value-based organization, we would introduce new technologies and engage with the business in understanding the value of a solution. We help create a business case and capture the value that the solution is delivering to the business. We have tried to really build that culture.

automotiveIT: What will the IT world look like five or 10 years from now?

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Rishi: Portals to grow in importance (All photos: Larry Peplin)

Rishi:I think the idea of portals will have matured in five years. The access point for all information will be a portal. It's where you go for e-mail, voice mail, analytics, charts, reports, regardless of whether you're an exective, an engineer or someone working in the plant. This will have a significant impact on how applications work.

automotiveIT: What kind of implications do you see?

Everything underneath has to be structured. Everything will be pulled into the portal. Analytics will mature in a big way. Big data has huge implications for what's available. Through the portal you can find out which customer bought what from me; how many engineering changes came through; how big those changes were; what implications there are for manufacturing and purchasing costs;  the footprint, new plants, etc. There is so much knowledge resident in organizations that is not captured and presented or managed by IT. It's in people's heads, or somebody's day planner or in somebody's conference room. IT organizations of tomorrow will become more knowledge-oriented organizations. How you capture and present knowledge is where you will see a big change in five years.

-Interview by Arjen Bongard

Arjen work/Sanjay edited.docx