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The Road More Wired

All this is aimed at making GM a smaller, quicker, more agile organization. The payoff has been double-digit productivity gains in each of the past five years.

“The real reason GM is so resurgent is purely a story about costs, operational efficiency and productivity,” says Baba Shetty, an analyst in the automotive practice at Forrester Research in Cambridge, MA. “How technology can help deliver on the core processes critical to the business-that’s where the real story is. Because even incremental improvements will pay off dramatically in the marketplace.”

The most notable thing at GM may be its reluctance to blow its own horn. After a tough decade in the 1990s, GM is well aware that the automotive industry is subject more than most to the swift business cycles of the economy. The company still has the challenge of developing distinct brands and brand values in the marketplace so that it is not simply competing on price. Though its technology initiatives have dramatically affected the bottom line already-by increasing productivity and earning good will among customers, dealers, suppliers and employees-everyone agrees there are more ways to use information technology to improve business.

“This will be more of a journey for the next five years,” Gutmann says. “There will be fewer big changes but more year-over-year improvements. We’re moving closer to real knowledge management, to sharing knowledge across the enterprise. Our goal is to make GM feel like a small company.”

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