Smither replaced Marv Adams, who for a time reported to Ford's COO and, for five and a half years, focused on improving IT service levels. "Marv did a great job of addressing the fundamentals of IT," says Smither, who worked under him as director of product-development systems. Without the technical capabilities and IT-quality initiatives Adams put in place, One IT would be inconceivable. But requirements for IT have shifted at Ford, which under Adams and his two predecessors was acquiring global brands and diversifying into new transportation-related businesses. "It's a different company now," Smither says. "My work is focused around making sure we integrate Ford globally so that we're profitably moving forward."
Mulally recognized IT's importance in Ford's overhaul. "There aren't that many automotive CEOs that highlight the role of IT in their public statements. Alan does," says Gartner's Koslowski. Mulally elevated Smither to group vice president (and an office on the top floor at headquarters).
Every Thursday at 7 a.m., Smither heads to a conference room for Mulally's two-and-a-half hour business plan review (BPR). Each direct report delivers a status update on his function's contribution to the turnaround and its performance against corporate profit targets. Some weeks Smither takes five minutes; others he has the floor for half an hour.
The purpose of the BPR is not to highlight success but to provide an accurate picture of the company's progress toward One Ford so it can make course changes if need be. It's fitting that these meetings take place in the "glass house," as Ford's windowed headquarters building is informally known, but this level of openness and accountability is foreign to legacy employees.
To jump start these frank discussions, Mulally insisted that Smither and his fellow executives label each slide they present as green, yellow or red. Initially, the presentations were all green. "There was hesitance to show a yellow or red slide. Historically, that would have been taken as a sign of weakness," says Todd Nissen, a company spokesman. So when Mark Fields, Ford executive vice president and president for the Americas, was the first to brave a red slide, "Alan called him out on it, in a good way," Nissen says.
Those meetings helped Smither figure out the best way to cut IT costs and set expectations about how those reductions would affect the business. Function and business-unit heads participated in figuring out which applications might not need an upgrade and where investments were required to support key business objectives. "It's a very transparent process," says Smither. "Whenever there's an issue, whether it's in IT or another functional skill team, there's almost always a better plan for moving forward when we come out of the discussion."