IT can drive change in the business

Improving manufacturing processes by using product lifecycle management, supply chain optimisation and enhancing operational...

Improving manufacturing processes by using product lifecycle management, supply chain optimisation and enhancing operational processes will go a long way to adding business value through IT. The biggest gain, however, comes when IT can drive product innovation.

Susan Unger, chief information officer at DaimlerChrysler, has been keen to get the most from new IT. "As a chief information officer you constantly look at how IT can be more efficient. It is important to use IT innovatively for our products."

She runs twice-yearly meetings with DaimlerChrysler's key IT supplier. "We discuss our business challenges and where we want to go as a business," she said. Unger uses a balanced scorecard to assess how each supplier delivers innovation to DaimlerChrysler's business.

Along with the strategic suppliers, DaimlerChrysler's Advanced Technology Group, headed by the chief technology officer, has been tasked with looking at innovation.

Unger said "The Advanced Technology Group looks at interesting technology from both small and large companies, based on specific business deliverables."

Unger, who is speaking in two week's time at the ICT World Forum running alongside CeBit in Hanover from 17-19 March, said IT directors need to look constantly at how they can improve the business.

One example at DaimlerChrysler is an engineering grid that runs crash simulations, a job that would normally be run on a supercomputer. "We have a project in our commercial vehicle division using 160 workstations to run simulations between 6pm, when the engineers leave, and 6am," said Unger.

IT directors should also look at more down-to-earth IT strategies to reap savings, she added.

"We have been working on datacentre consolidation, where we aim to move all our servers into four global datacentres. "It is a long journey but we are seeing a 30% saving [on IT costs]."

To keep abreast of technology outside DaimlerChrysler, Unger is among a handful of CIOs on the board of Ciose, a venture capital fund supported by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

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