Tim McCabe’s Journey From Legal And Sourcing Leader To CIO Of Delphi Automotive
Early in his career, Tim McCabe would not have anticipated that he would lead IT for a multi-billion dollar company. He studied philosophy as an undergraduate rather than focusing on a technical discipline. He joined the legal department at General Motors, and led Global Outsourcing for the automotive behemoth. It was during this time that he integrated more deeply into the IT department, first at General Motors, and later as Director of Strategy and Sourcing for Delphi Automotive. When he took over the chief information officer responsibilities at Delphi, he did so as a business-centric IT leader. He notes that even as CIO, he is a business leader first, and a technology leader second.
(This is the sixth article in the business CIOs series. To read past interviews with CIOs from GE, Marriott, and Texas Instruments, among others, please visit this link. To read future articles in the series, please click the “Follow” link above.)
Peter High: You took on this role in 2008—it is hard to think about that year without remembering the economic malaise that greeted us all then. You are in an industry, among several, that was most acutely impacted by that. Can you talk about what that experience was like in your early days and the way it helped you form your original plans as CIO?
Tim McCabe: To dial the clock back a bit, Delphi had spun out from General Motors as an independent company in 1999, and in the early 2000s it became clear to leadership that our position in the marketplace was not going to be sustainable. We had to go through a Chapter 11 filing, which we think of as the beginning of the transformation.
In early 2006 I was recruited from GM to come and join Delphi as part of the overall IT activity and company transformation. The objective was to lead a three-prong strategy to align costs to the company’s revenue, so we were focused on outsourcing, driving the company towards common platforms, and working with the internal IT team to align capabilities with business realities. We played a role in helping to return some of the money being spent around the globe on IT, and over the course of three years were able to reduce IT costs from over 2% to roughly 1.2%. We sustained that spend as we went through the overall footprint rotation and product offering transformation that the business went through. The objective through all of this was to reduce costs without creating any additional business risk.
My main objective was to ensure we did not miss a single shipment to one of our customers; job one was to reduce costs, improve services, and better our position in the marketplace. Second, we transformed a relatively large, insourced IT organization that was mostly federated and regionally operated into a single, global organization. We wrote and created over 200 processes so we could execute as a global team. We also retrained the staff that we retained through outsourcing. A big part of our change was to not only inform, but to educate our colleagues on the change we were going through and the value we were going to bring back to them. That was a big part of my formative years at Delphi.
Additional topics covered in the article include:
- Can you talk about the practices that you undertook in the early days of that shift from external to internal resources to make sure that external partnerships were running as effectively and efficiently as possible, as soon as possible?
- How difficult a process has it been to unwind portions of those partnerships with external sources? Did that mean having the foresight at the outset to have an agreement that would allow you to make changes with the least disruption possible?
- I’ve been compelled by the extent to which you think of yourself as a business leader first and an IT professional second. Can you talk about how your background has shaped the way in which you view your set of responsibilities and how IT can bring to light the different imperatives of Delphi?
- With the number of functions you have been a part of as a relative outsider, clearly you are somebody who is very comfortable with exploring new topics that you are not an expert in and then going deep relatively quickly. Is it fair to say that because you have embarked on so many parts of your career coming in as a relative outsider that you are very confortable engaging people in conversation in new areas with a level of curiosity appropriate to do this job well?
- Are there other IT trends that particularly excite you that you are hoping to leverage to a greater extent in the future?