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CIO50 2020 #26-50 Steven Bonnici, Ford Motor Company

  • Name Steven Bonnici
  • Title Chief information officer
  • Company Ford Motor Company
  • Commenced role July 2019
  • Reporting Line President, International Markets
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Technology Function 120 IT staff, 10 direct reports
  • Ford operates across 100 countries worldwide and harnessing the power or diverse and geographically distributed teams has been the result of a major transformation effort that has structured its teams around software products and services. 

    This has resulted in small teams with reduced organisational layers, agile ways of working and human-centered design thinking that deliver a measurable return on investment and incremental value. 

    One of the innovations spawned by this transformation is the ‘FordPass’ mobile app, says chief information officer, Steven Bonnici. 

    Connecting securely to Ford motor vehicles through the organisation’s mobility cloud, customers can use the app to use remote commands to start, lock or unlock their vehicle or check its location. The cloud also connects to internal systems to show service history and displays key variables such as fuel level, odometer and health alerts from the vehicle. 

    “Not even COVID-19 could stop our teams, as we continued to work through the final stages of implementation,” Bonnici says. “However, the underlying vehicle connectivity that powers FordPass has also allowed us to rethink the way we run our business. This includes using vehicle data to improve our servicing experience and optimise internal operational processes through dashboards and then AI.” 

    Ford has also advanced its digital program, applying internet-of-things (IoT) technologies to predict mechanical failures and optimise costly maintenance across its plants. 

    “We’re combining IoT data from shop floor equipment, operational systems and analytical algorithms to generate insights that lead to a material impact on quality metrics like improved first time through' and 'cost per unit,'" he says.

    Bonnici adds that Ford has some of the most complex manufacturing plants in the world, with some vehicles having more than one million build combinations. 

    “We have therefore established a simulated plant environment to experiment with new technology before applying it our real plants,” he notes. “We’re using technology to create factories of tomorrow to maintain our position as a world-class manufacturer across our 6 assembly plants. 

    “To grow our innovation capability, we also established an innovation springboard’ where people can share ideas, get necessary coaching and funding to identify, experiment and implement new ideas.” 

    This has delivered important wins like the move to paperless, which is expected to save around a million pages of printing each year at Ford.

    Key to the company's transformation has been the coupling of culture with strategy to drive better ownership of business outcomes. 

    “We applied the same level of importance to culture change as implementing structural changes, processes and tooling. As a result, staff engagement has been the highest of all functions, and despite COVID-19, operational metrics have exceeded targets and overall cost has been reduced by 15 per cent,” Bonnici notes. 

    “Our teams are empowered to do what’s right for the organisation and prioritise their budgets toward the highest value. They are questioning existing costs and finding creative ways to reduce day-to-day support in place of higher value innovation.”  

    Forego your ego

    Bonnici says his most important lesson in business has been to "leave his ego at the door". 

    “As one of our former CEOs would say, ‘It’s nice to be important but it’s more important to be nice,’” he says. 

    Bonnici says his move into senior leadership has come with the realisation that value comes from people.

    “I think having that level of humility becomes more becomes more important as you take on more responsibility and lead more people,” he believes. “When I was in the United States, I would travel to Palo Alto and had the opportunity to meet and work with small technology companies. It was a real eye-opening experience for me as I learnt a lot about how they managed staff engagement and their focus on lean practices.” 

    Bonnici says no matter what position you hold or how big your company, it’s important to stay humble and recognise that you can learn from others.

    Byron Connolly

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