In an IT overhaul, GM plans to create new U.S. software development centers. Manufacturers Ford and GE recently made the same move.
U.S. tech talent shortage? General Motors is making a very big bet that it can hire a steady stream of IT pros in the United States, including a lot of new college grads, as part of a new information technology strategy.
GM is planning an IT overhaul under CIO Randy Mott that includes creating three software development centers in the U.S. and potentially hiring hundreds of developers, project managers, and other IT professionals as it reverses its decades-old reliance on IT outsourcers. It will also consolidate its data centers in two main facilities in Michigan.
Mott thinks having the developers in the U.S. will make it easier for them to collaborate, believing that projects move faster and teams work better if they're physically located in the same place. Mott also wants IT pros who understand GM's automotive business. GM will add IT pros internationally, but they'll be in roles of planning and requirement gathering.
GM won't say how many IT people it plans to hire. But it had hired 91 new IT people as of late June, and "that's a slow ramp compared with where we will be," Mott says.
One of GM's three development centers will be in the Detroit area, where GM has its biggest IT presence already. The other two locations will be picked based on access to talent. "Our approach is to have some breadth so we can reach a lot of the [talent] market and reach a lot of the universities," Mott says. "We think of [potential sites] in terms of the radius of what they can reach. There are plenty of cities on the list."
GM's not alone in seeking among big manufacturers adding U.S.-based IT talent.
Ford recently created its own new Silicon Valley development center, which opened in June. The center has only a handful of people at this point, and Ford also has R&D centers worldwide. But Ford decided it needed a presence in the epicenter of software development, since people's car buying increasingly is influenced by the software inside, like Ford's Sync platform.
Chairman Bill Ford cited three main reasons for opening the Silicon Valley center. One, it provides a laboratory to try out new apps. Two, it gives Ford a better feel for what's happening in the Valley. And three, it will help the company tap the informal networking for which the Valley's famous. "It gives all the really smart entrepreneurs out there a place to go to interconnect with Ford," Bill Ford said at a recent event in Detroit.
General Electric likewise opened a Silicon Valley software center this year. GE already has a sizeable software group, GE Intelligent Platforms, based in Charlottesville, Va., as well as developers across its many divisions. But those people are focused on very specific industrial applications of software. Bill Ruh, the center's director (and a former Cisco executive), says the GE people in Silicon Valley will look at emerging trends in social media, analytics, and databases and explore ways to apply them to an industrial setting.
GE says its could hire as many as 400 software pros at the California center over the coming years. GM's plans likely include hundreds of new hires, but other people will be losing their jobs at IT outsourcing vendors as that work is moved into GM. Ford hasn't said how many it plans to hire.
It's not an avalanche of new jobs, but each of these companies could have created some or all of these jobs abroad, something many IT pros have come to expect. InformationWeek's recent Innovation Mandate survey finds that 63% of tech pros consider the U.S. a "strong player" in technology that's "losing its lead on a global scale." Only 32% consider it a power that's "positioned to grow its influence." The globalization of IT shows no sign of slacking, but U.S. IT pros have shown they can compete in that market. In these three examples, major multinational companies saw U.S. software talent as the right choice for innovation on a global scale.
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