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Fiat alive & kicking thanks in part to tech policy

Fiat alive & kicking thanks in part to tech policy

Collaboration, agility and virtualisation were crucial ingredients in Fiat’s revival and can make any project run more smoothly

An IBM survey has found that CEOs feel that their companies are slow in responding to organizational challenges, including new ways to take advantage of technology.

So what are CEOs doing about it? According to CIO: "Sixty-nine per cent say they are making extensive changes to their company's business models. Many of these changes will capitalize on virtual technologies and real-time feedback."

That's a good start. But it's only a start. As I see it, addressing these issues is also a matter of making better use of methodologies and tools that are out there for collaboration and innovation. It's about making IT and business teams work better together, in a more agile way.

Indeed, virtualization can and should be a big part of that process. Fiat's CEO Sergio Marchionne hit the headlines for leading the company through an "astonishing recovery", with the car firm making a record trading profit of €3.2bn (£2.5bn, 66 per cent up on 2006) while eliminating its net industrial debt.

How did Marchionne do it? According to The Economist: "He demands complete openness, fast communication, accountability; he abhors corporate politics and hierarchy." He flattened out the company's structure and got individual teams working together.

The second thing he did was to boost development speed by making teams more agile. In designing its Bravo and 500 models, Fiat relied entirely on computer simulations. "With virtual engineering, we can test and validate hundreds of solutions and configurations -- much more than we could with [physical] prototypes," said Fiat's head of engineering, Harold Wester. Fiat cut the time from final design to production from 26 months to 18, gaining a critical competitive advantage.

Fiat's recipe for innovation was equal parts collaboration, agility and virtualization. So what ingredients -- tools and methodologies, that is -- should CIOs be thinking about if they aren't already?

Let's start with collaboration. At one end, there's Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. At Conchango, we've been helping clients take advantage of its integration of workspaces, forums, blogs, RSS and wikis since its beta phase.

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