By Kim S. Nash  |  Posted 2005-02-01 Email Print this article Print

The first global chief information officer of the $9.1 billion auto parts supplier attacked his job as if it was a critical technology project. Here's how Bruce Carver spent his first 100 days.

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Sept. 1, 2004: Carver arrives with a 90-day plan, listing 29 tasks on one page under three themes: Gather facts about existing products and vendors. Put the right staff in place. Draw blueprints of the new centralized architecture. Only after the 100th day would Carver's team start shutting down redundant systems and negotiating with vendors.

This plan grew from a "transformation" technique Carver had used before. Two weeks before he officially started, Carver spent four days at Dana's Toledo, Ohio, headquarters quizzing CEO Burns; managers of purchasing, finance and human resources; and the presidents of key divisions. He asked three questions: How do you do what you do? What's most important to you right now? What are your biggest risks?

Dana had endured rough times. After losing $480 million in 2001 and 2002 mainly due to slow auto sales, the company started to streamline. By 2003, it had sold 10 businesses, closed or combined 39 facilities and laid off 20,000 of its 70,000 employees. It had also fought off a hostile takeover attempt by rival ArvinMeritor in Troy, Mich. In the middle of the five-month fracas, Dana's then-CEO, Joe Magliochetti, a 37-year company veteran, died of complications from pancreatitis.

Dana survived, but still struggles. Burns now wants to centralize several functions. Plants that make axles in Kalamazoo, Mich., and driveshafts in Maumee, Ohio, for example, don't need separate human-resources, purchasing or technology groups.

Carver's quiz helps him prioritize chores. Burns wants to know how much is spent on technology. He thinks it is $92 million per year, but no one really knows. People in local offices and factories usually decide for themselves what software to buy or contractors to hire. Carver later discovers, for instance, that various sites had hired IBM consultants for different jobs—$2 million worth of business in all—with no overarching contract protecting Dana from price increases.

Sept. 2: Carver creates a team to hunt down Dana's computer spending, led by Cheryl Kline, controller for information technology; Mike Endsley, technology director for Dana's automotive-systems group; and Sean Forrester, who had the same slot in the heavy-vehicle division. Other teams will examine major applications, such as manufacturing and financial systems, to find the age and cost of the system, number of people supporting it and using it, and eight other attributes.

Carver directs the teams to report back in 90 days, but doesn't tell them how to do their job. This lets him assess their problem-solving and leadership skills for later staff placements.

Early September: Diagrams a technology architecture for all of Dana. One enterprise software system, such as a suite from Oracle or SAP, running on one operating system and brand of servers, plus one human-resources application and one financial system. He thinks this will appeal to Burns and budgeteers, compared to the existing convoluted and overlapping systems.

Mid-September: Meets with senior technology managers one-on-one to "deep dive" into their specialties. They know they're not guaranteed jobs, and they want to impress. Tom Luckett, director of business applications, plays up his experience rolling out Oracle enterprise software and his Ph.D. studies in organizational behavior. Forrester details how he led the heavy-vehicle unit through a consolidation of applications starting in 2002. His 60 locations went from four manufacturing systems to one from Oracle, and 42 managers to 17.

Late September: Meets with Gary Hull, director of technology purchasing. Hull needs to keep current on Carver's thinking—such as which vendors to play off each other—to prepare for negotiations with Oracle, SAP, Dell and Hewlett-Packard, among others, in early 2005.

Senior Writer
Kim has covered the business of technology for 14 years, doing investigative work and writing about legal issues in the industry, including Microsoft Corp.'s antitrust trial. She has won numerous awards and has a B.S. degree in journalism from Boston University.

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