Why GM’s Randy Mott has it right

Ok I confess I am not a fan of GM. You know why? Because I owned a early 90’s Pontiac Grand Am – so there! That was about 20 years ago now and I still remember telling the service manager that I’ll never buy another GM. (still true)

But this post is not about old GM, it’s about today’s GM and their new CIO Randy Mott. Now I’ve never met Randy and probably never will but I will say he’s got it right. If you haven’t seen the recent news well here’s the quick jist of it. GM, under Randy’s watch, will reverse their current outsourcing strategy and bring most of the IT work back to GM staff. You can read the very long version here.

Put aside the difficulty of executing this strategy for a second and then ask yourself why the change? I believe that it fundamentally boils down to the fact that current vehicles are nothing without the software. If that sounds ridiculous or grandiose – it’s not. I stole that from Marc Andreessen who said the excate same thing about Apple and Jawbone in Wired. You can split hairs and say that Marc is mainly focusing on true tech companies and that’s clearly not GM.
Well guess what, GM IS a tech company – just like (surprise!) Caterpillar. Last week at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colorado, their Chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman spoke about how important software is to them. He credits software for making the diesel engine more efficient, and that many of their 500 yearly patents come from software.

So is Randy Mott taking – as Chris Murphy states in the InformationWeek article – a  “high-risk strategy”? I’m sure Chris would agree that strategically this isn’t a large risk, it’s the logical conclusion of GM checking out the weather charts and having a “come to Jesus moment”.  The greater risk strategic is to do nothing at all. Innovation has lead to cars which are no longer purely mechanical creatures and with electric cars on the horizon,  it’s the software that has the ability to shift the competitive landscape.
Executing this strategy is however a maelstrom of risk. Conjuring up strategic vision is simple, anyone with a napkin and a pencil can come with a pie-in-the-sky plan. The hard, long, and tricky part is ALWAYS executing the strategy. I’m sure Randy will have a lot of 9 to 9 days in front of him and Mondays will really be a bitch, but if it works he’ll set GM up for the future.

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