681: In this interview, Mamatha Chamarthi, Head of Software Business and Product Management P&L at Stellantis, and Vipin Gupta, Group Vice President & Chief Information Officer of Toyota Financial Services (TFS), discuss building talent for digital operating models. Vipin begins with an overview of the product orientation model he has adopted within the financial services industry and talks about the Digital Academy he has created to train non-technical talent throughout the organization. Mamatha describes the skills and experiences needed to be a successful product owner at Stellantis. Finally, both executives discuss how they curated their career paths from IT to become broader business leaders within their respective organizations.

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The automobile is one of the most important innovations of the last century. It has not been an unmitigated blessing, however, as it has led to millions of deaths through accidents, and it is among the biggest sources of pollution.

Mamatha Chamarthi is the Software Business and Product Management Leader at Stellantis, a post that she took on in April of 2021. Stellantis was formed in 2021 on the basis of a merger between the Italian-American conglomerate Fiat Chrysler and the French PSA group. The combined entity has a bit more than $200 billion in annual revenue.

It is refreshing to speak with Chamarthi about the car industry because she does not wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to the issues that the industry has had, just as she is inspired and energized by the role that technology can play in rectifying those issues. “Millions of people are seriously injured every year in car crashes [around the world]. Last year in the U.S., there was a 7% increase [in serious injuries],” she said. She recognizes that autonomous driving is the key to driving down these issues because 95% of the fatalities are due to human error. Her goals is to augment human intelligence to reduce this radically. “There is a bigger, broader purpose and a societal challenge that we are going after with autonomy. That is why the technology industry is also so fascinated with this area of autonomy.”

To solve autonomy requires the development of an ecosystem around Stellantis, and, here again, Chamarthi is part of the solution. “We are creating an ecosystem, partnering with technology companies like Amazon and Waymo,” noted Chamarthi. “We partnered with Waymo for autonomy, and we are also partnering with BMW, another traditional automaker just like us, to create our level two-plus [autonomy, out of five levels ] with enhanced autonomy to level three, which is where your hands are off the steering wheel, your eyes are off the road for some time and your feet are off the accelerator and the brake.” The company has developed adaptive cruise control, emergency braking and Traffic Jam Assist, as three components to help get from level two-plus driving to level three and beyond.

Chamarthi notes the necessity of partnering with pure-play technology companies, as they have technology budgets that dwarf those of automotive companies. A company like Stellantis can offer industry expertise and loyal customers, and technology companies can develop a portfolio of technologies for the Stellantises of the world to leverage as it climbs the rungs toward greater levels of autonomy.

Global warming is another major issue for the automotive industry to solve. Chamarthi admits that transportation is one of the biggest contributor to air pollution. The United States Environmental Protection Agency notes transportation as the third biggest contributing industry to greenhouse gas emissions. Again, she believes digital innovation should drive better outcomes on that front, as well. “We have to find an answer to reducing the carbon footprint because that is part of our responsibility to leave a cleaner, greener planet for future generations,” said Chamarthi. This will be enhanced not only through autonomy, but also through greater levels of electrification and shared mobility.

Chamarthi asked a rhetorical question. “What percentage of the time do we use [a car]? 7% maybe at best. 93% of the time it is sitting on a driveway or in a garage or a parking lot. In our digital economy, what happens with an underutilized asset? We find some creative, innovative ways of using that asset and that is what gave birth to ridehailing shared mobility.” To fill this need, Stellantis launched Free2Move, which provides customers the option to lease or own a mobility experience for a few minutes through to multiple years in duration. This mobility as a service offering will not be limited to Stellantis’ automotive portfolio. The company will provide the products and services to bring this to life for competitors’ portfolios, as well.

Beyond the virtuous aspects of digital innovation, Chamarthi is also excited about the experiences that can be brough to life through the connected automobile. “Can I personalize the driving experience of the customer?,” she asked. By way of example, she noted, “I can provide a Jeep for an off-road trail [for a customer], planning an end-to-end trail experience for my customer.” She likens this to excursions for a cruise line. If a customer signs up for Free2Move, they can have access to multiple vehicles for different kinds of experiences, each with a level of education and curation to make them safe and interesting at the same time.

Prior to her current role, Chamarthi was the Chief Digital Officer and Chief Information Officer of Stellantis. She sees her evolution from CIO and CDO to running a profit center for the company as representative of the ascent of technology and digital across businesses more generally. Increasingly, “Technology is front and center,” she said. “It is exciting to be driving and shaping the automotive industry in these macro trends of autonomy, electrification, connected services and shared mobility. All of them are enabled by software, are all enabled by technology. It only makes complete sense to me that technology leaders are being asked to come lead from the front [rather] than leading from behind.”

Peter High is President of  Metis Strategy, a business and IT advisory firm. He has written two bestselling books, and his third, Getting to Nimble, was recently released. He also moderates the Technovation podcast series and speaks at conferences around the world. Follow him on Twitter @PeterAHigh.

General Motors today named two new technology leaders and said it would split its information technology organization into two groups, one focused on global IT and the other on software product development for customers.

Fred Killeen was named VP of global information technology and Chief Information Officer, reporting to CEO Mary Barra. He will lead the Global IT team, which is responsible for back-office IT support and using software to support growth across the company. Killeen most recently was GM’s Chief Information Security Officer and CTO, where he oversaw the automaker’s global information security and IT risk management programs.

Stacy Lynett will run the Digital Business Software group. Reporting to newly appointed Chief Digital Officer Edward Kummer, her team will be responsible for technology strategy and software product development that is geared toward delivering enhanced products and experiences for customers. She will also support global customer and dealer systems.

Lynett most recently was executive director and CIO of Global Product Development and Quality for GM IT, as well as CIO for Global Corporate Functions. In that role, she focused on the company’s Workday solution and supporting IT for the legal and communications functions. 

Both Killeen and Lynett previously reported to CIO Randy Mott, who last week announced plans to retire.

The Global IT and Digital Business Software groups will be a critical part of GM’s plan to deliver $20 billion to $25 billion in software-enabled services revenue annually by 2030. In a press release, GM noted that both groups “will continue to collaborate on driving innovation, providing the best software and technology solutions to support the company, attracting and retaining talent, professional development, and more.”

“The new structure and dual operating model will enable GM to fully leverage its strong foundation in IT capability, talent and resources, as well as reduce complexity and improve speed,” Barra said in the statement. “Stacy and Fred bring unique backgrounds and experiences to help us seize the opportunities software plays in our business as we move from automaker to platform innovator.”

Vinny Hoxha, deputy CISO at GM, will take over as Chief Information Security Officer, reporting to Killeen.

PSteven Norton is co-head of CIO networks, research and media at Metis Strategy, a business and IT strategy firm. He previously was a reporter for The Wall Street Journal’s CIO Journal, where he covered the changing role of the chief information officer and the rise of emerging technologies including artificial intelligence and blockchain. At Forbes, he covers new CIO appointments as well as the ways in which technology executives are developing the workforce of the future.

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Toyota Financial Services (TFS) is a 35-year-old, wholly-owned subsidiary of Toyota Motor Corporation and is the largest auto finance company in the U.S. with $125 billion in managed assets. The company’s offering includes lending payments, banking, and fleet financing, as well as insurance and protection products to consumers and dealers of Toyota, Lexus, and through private-label partner brands. The emergence of private-label partnerships has been a new part of the company’s operating model, but it was enabled through a radical transformation led by the company’s CIO, Vipin Gupta.  

When Gupta joined TFS nearly three and a half years ago, he found a well-run IT organization, though he recognized that it was quite traditional. He was worried the IT department was not ready for the digital transformation necessary to be a bigger, strategic contributor to the company. Gupta faced a choice as to how best to proceed. “[I could] either fix the IT organization or redesign the next version of Toyota Financial Services in a grander way and use technology as a catalyst to design a new business model for Toyota Financial Services.” He chose the latter. Gupta continued, “The question that I used to ask was, ‘How would we design TFS if we were born today?’ If you were born in this digital world, the version of TFS [would] look very different, and the idea was, instead of trying to fix IT, let’s try to design that version, try to realize that [digital] vision of TFS.”

Gupta saw the opportunity to leapfrog the current standard and to make TFS into a platform for other brands to run their captive financial services on. “To do this, we needed to build a completely new technology chassis from the ground up with a multi-tenant architecture that allows us to run multiple brands on a shared infrastructure, but still keeps the data separate,” noted Gupta. The key in his mind was to transform behaviors before transforming technology. By first changing the way the team worked, the technology modernization pathway was clearer. The change required rethinking the way in which the company collaborated, the way new solutions were designed. “The best of strategies will fail without a culture that complements that aspiration,” said Gupta. “On the technology front, our vision is clear. We will use the cloud, and we will design a multi-tenant platform to deliver mobility finance as a service.”

When asked how the culture change was facilitated, Gupta noted how addressing three main points formed his gameplan, each using speed as the key performance indicator. First, there was a need to change the speed of decision-making. Second, there was a need to increase the speed of collaboration. Third, the team needed to increase the speed of engineering.

Speed of decision-making was the lynchpin according to Gupta. “Decision-making is the biggest barrier to speed and flexibility in an organization,” he noted. “The largest waste in IT projects is not in engineering. It is in decision-making and the lack of clarity. If you make decisions quickly supported by data and communicate decisions clearly, the team will consistently deliver with high quality and efficiency.” The key is to start this change from the top of the organization. Leaders needed to become more agile. Gupta facilitated the creation of new scrum-based routines for TFS’s executive team.

To facilitate the speed of collaboration, the digital organization needed to operate as a single ecosystem rather than separate silos. “Any business is a perpetual machine,” said Gupta. “It’s not a collection of time-bound projects. It needs durable teams led by subject matter experts, not by project managers only. These teams need to follow repeatable routines to maintain a continuous dialogue and prioritization.” Gupta developed a product orientation to the company, bringing together skills and teams from across the company aligned with the products that were defined. This common means of operating across product teams created greater output, but it also created greater levels of understanding and empathy across teams. Team members from across product teams shared information and learnings in ways that had not been the norm previously.

Changing the speed of engineering started with an acknowledgment that software is TFS’s product. As such, the company needed to become masters of its own technology. “We need to be as good at software engineering as [Toyota is] at automotive engineering,” said Gupta. “Inspired by our automotive factories, we built digital factories using the lean manufacturing practices of Toyota that have long been admired [the world over]. Just like automotive factories, the new digital factories were formed. They’re founded on consistency and standardization of behaviors, practices, and routines. We developed a new software engineering methodology that combines Toyota manufacturing practices with agile and scrum practice of software development.”

By increasing speed across these three vectors, the company was able to transform in months when years was the going-in assumption of what was possible. The key was to begin with the behavioral transformation. Gupta underscored that the focus on transforming habits before transforming the platform was a game-changer for TFS.

In order to ensure that the entire company and not just the technology employees raised their digital acumen, two years ago Gupta founded the TFS Digital Academy. “Harnessing the power of software is not just IT’s job; it is everyone’s job in a digital company,” noted Gupta. “The idea was not to just to train IT, but to train everyone across the organization, and whether they are employees or consultants, everyone will be trained in the new practices, new methods, new approaches, new behaviors.” This leveled the playing field and ensured that that level was much higher than in the past.

All of these changes have enabled the IT department to grow its contribution to the company’s success without growing costs. The new way of working has “reduced waste dramatically,” according to Gupta. “We’ve been managing our expenses in a very disciplined way, and we are now open to partner with any automaker, mobility provider or services provider, who wants to offer high quality, captive financial services for their brand to their customers and dealers.” As such IT’s transformation has been critical in developing the new private-label business. Mazda was the first partner to engage through Mazda Financial Services. Mazda gains mightily through the partnership by focusing on its products while leveraging the capabilities, talent, and quality of TFS.  

The future will include adding more brands to this model, but Gupta also sees the possibility of additional products and services. These will include insurance and payments in the used car business, for example.

Gupta has achieved a tremendous amount in less than three and a half years in his role. With the digital innovation engine that he has created with speed as the metric, no doubt this is just the beginning of what he and the team can accomplish for TFS.

Peter High is President of  Metis Strategy, a business and IT advisory firm. He has written two bestselling books, and his third, Getting to Nimble, was recently released. He also moderates the Technovation podcast series and speaks at conferences around the world. Follow him on Twitter @PeterAHigh.

598: In this interview, Sri Donthi, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Advance Auto Parts, focuses on consumer-centric automotive innovation and building a modern enterprise architecture. Sri begins with his purview as CTO at Advanced Auto Parts and talks about the company’s overall vision for the industry. He gives insight into new ways of doing business digitally, how his team looks to retrain current staff on the necessary skills in this digital model, and the role data and digital play in meeting evolving expectations in employee and customer experiences. Additionally, Sri shares his team’s three approaches to modernizing enterprise architecture: fix, build, and transform. Finally, Sri speaks to some of the emerging trends in the industry and technology that he is excited about in the future.

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This episode is sponsored by Quickbase.

597: Mamatha Chamarthi, Head of Software Business and Product Management P&L at Stellantis, focuses on the future of autonomous vehicles. Mamatha explains her purview as Head of Software Business & Product Management P&L and describes a trend she sees of technology leaders taking on greater responsibilities on the business and P&L side of the enterprise. She gives insight into the growing opportunities for advancement in autonomous driving and electric vehicles, the coopetition and ecosystems necessary in attaining higher levels of autonomy, and where we are in the journey towards Level 4 and 5 automation. Finally, Mamatha talks about how her global work experience shapes her leadership style, why it is important to have women leaders in technology and business, and what additional trends in technology her team looks to leverage in the future.

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This episode is sponsored by Quickbase.

515: Cox Enterprises chief information officer Richard Cox discusses

  • Richard’s interactions with the division CIOs of Cox Enterprises and how they work together
  • Why Richard is focused on building a holistic strategy
  • Some of IT’s focus areas for 2021
  • The digital acceleration driven by the pandemic
  • The importance of having relentless and transparent communication during times like these
  • Richard’s experience working for the City of Atlanta during a major cyberattack
  • Some of Cox Enterprises’ diversity and inclusion efforts
  • Richard’s take on RPA, AI, and data analytics

Among a variety of other topics.

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This episode is sponsored by Sykes and SECURITI.ai.

452: Visteon CIO Raman Mehta discusses how IT has enhanced its role and gained the trust of the business. Historically, IT at Visteon has been great at solving problems it was presented with. However, IT was never given a voice in the company’s strategy or product roadmap. That has changed, and the board and executive committee now has great confidence in the capabilities of IT, which has enabled the organization to take on a more strategic role. We also discuss Raman’s take on 3D printing and autonomous driving, the tech landscape in Detroit, where Visteon is based, how the company is looking to turn its technology debt into a dividend, and a variety of other topics. 

Tekion Founder & CEO Jay Vijayan provides an overview of the fragmented automotive industry, highlights the industry’s shortcomings, and describes how Tekoin is using advanced technology and their automotive retail cloud platform to create a win-win-win situation for the large OEMs [original equipment manufacturers], retailers, and consumers. Additionally, Jay discusses the importance of delivering a seamless customer experience, how his time as CIO of Tesla prepared him for his current role, Tekion’s global ambitions, among other topics.

419: Arity President Gary Hallgren highlights the three main issues in the transportation industry. Most importantly, driving is extremely inefficient as the average car is used for four percent of the day. Further, 40,000 people die on the roads each year, and driving is extremely expensive, both in time and money. To make a difference in these areas, Arity is working with shared mobility companies, insurance companies, and automobile companies to solve these issues. We also discuss why Gary believes fully autonomous vehicles are further away than many think, how the company mixes the stability, strength, and resources of a Fortune 80 company with the entrepreneurial spirit of a startup, how Arity attracts talent, among other topics.