February 4, 2009
As the sales results continue to tumble for the Detroit carmakers, I worry that they don't know how to fix their problems. Would they get different results if they approached their vehicles like IT projects?First off, imagine applying a rigorous requirements documentation phase to a new car design. Sussing out a system would go far beyond vehicle performance, and include understanding financing options, service offerings, and even the physical circumstance of car showrooms and repair bays. Vehicles would be nodes or elements of an integrated solution, which I can pretty much guarantee is not the way the carmakers look at the disparate tools at their command. So it might yield new offerings that would better match not only buyer needs, but the requirements of users.
Of course, there'd be people who hated it. That's standard operating procedure for any IT project (even if a system works exactly like it's supposed to, somebody will complain about it, right?). So there'd be serious issue reporting and tracking built into the system, and provisions made to handle said problems not as exceptions to the user experience, but rather as integral aspects of it. Again, think of the reality in the car business today, and how the service/follow-up experience is an interruption of what is sold (maybe implicitly) as a service-less relationship. And then there'd be the delivery of upgrades and improvements. Every IT person knows that there's no such thing as a static system; either things get better, or they just get worse. So car systems would be designed for continuous improvement, whether hardware or software, and the manufacturers would drive this process (pun intended) and not wait for consumer-prompted issues to surface. What did I miss? Are there better reasons why the approach would work...or ones that would doom it? My point is that maybe the best way for Detroit to find better answers to its problems would be to start asking different questions. And asking questions is something that IT folks know how to do. Jonathan Salem Baskin writes the Dim Bulb blog and is the author of Branding Only Works On Cattle.
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