Executive Forum: It's Business Unusual And IT's The Driver - InformationWeek
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Executive Forum: It's Business Unusual And IT's The Driver

DaimlerChrysler's investment in real-time technology improves service

In today's uncertain economy, the focus on value has never been sharper. Every company faces new business challenges that drive expectations and requirements for them, their suppliers, and their partners. As we work together to address the challenges, the old ways of doing business no longer work. It's not business as usual; it's business unusual.

Regardless of industry sector, we all face the same challenges and questions: How can I better service my customers' needs? What's the best way to manage time, information, and changing supplier and partner relationships? And most important, how do I use technology wisely to bring about true business value?

Relationships with customers, employees, partners, and suppliers change as we focus on real-time operations and simplifying and standardizing business processes around the globe. More and more, companies are working in virtual teams. Real-time technology has the power to bring about breakthroughs in global collaboration and the way we manage information. It can save time in processes and help lower costs.

Real time is all about managing information better--getting information to the right people at the right time. One example of how real time is changing people and processes in Chrysler Group plants is the eManufacturing digital-dashboard system, which gives plant managers instant access to production data that in the past wasn't easily accessible on the factory floor. Now, using a wireless LAN and a PDA, managers can access real-time production data from a variety of systems and make decisions quickly.

The plant environment faces constant change as adjustments are made to respond to actual events and anticipate future events. These decisions may impact partners and suppliers as well because they need access to current status to update in-sequence and just-in-time deliveries, anticipate and correct equipment problems, and help us proactively improve plant performance. By providing real-time information to the people who need it, both inside and outside the company, we've realized improvements in speed, quality, and cost. This also has an impact on our customers and product offerings.

Real time is changing the way we manage supplier relationships. Every company is focused on becoming more efficient. DaimlerChrysler is no different. We've implemented a Web-based balanced-scorecard process that tracks agreed-upon metrics for key IT suppliers. The scorecard helps maximize the value our suppliers bring, so we can pass that value along to our customers. Suppliers can look at their metrics online any time. If targets and performance data aren't in sync, action can be taken early. Regardless of the business, if a task is important enough to accomplish, it's important enough to track and measure. Every business needs a scorecard to measure success.

In addition to real-time operations, DaimlerChrysler is integrating best practices and expert knowledge into systems that drive standard processes for business and manufacturing tasks. A consistent, high-quality process produces high-quality output, whether that's a vehicle, an online bid for production parts, or a collaborative engineering design.

The growing need for real-time information and the focus on business-process innovation and improvement will continue to shape and change relationships. As that happens, companies can't focus only on the technology aspect. To achieve success, it takes a critical combination of technology, people, and process. They're all interrelated, so when one changes, it affects the others.

The bottom line is no company today can afford to do IT just for the sake of IT. You've got to be sure of the business value and guarantee that technology is used wisely to drive process changes that bring practical, measurable, sustainable improvements throughout the enterprise. That's the new business-as-usual approach.

Sue Unger is senior VP and CIO of DaimlerChrysler AG.

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