Interview: Ford Motor Company CIO Marcy Klevorn

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Since January 1st, 2015, Marcy Klevorn has served as Ford Motor Company’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Vice President, succeeding Nick Smither. She’s been with Ford for 32 years, and before being named to her current title, she served as Director of the office of the CIO.

Ms. Klevorn was interviewed this month by Forbes, which published a lengthy, 6-page piece containing her thoughts on things like strategic priorities, innovation, and even what her favorite car is. The full interview can be read on the Forbes website.

Perhaps the most enlightening of Ms. Klevorn’s responses was prompted by a question about how Ford Motor Company has become such a “talent factory,” producing a number of alumni executives who have gone on to serve in other high-profile organizations. The list includes Ted Colbert (CIO of Boeing) and Jim Scholefield (CIO of Nike).

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Marcy Klevorn responded that one major contributing factor to being such an incubator for top talent comes from Ford being such a large global company. “Being a Fortune 10 company, our scale, and our global reach is unique. It is a complicated environment. For those of us who have been here a long time, you almost take it for granted… Once you operate like this, if you go somewhere else, it can be, but is almost always a simpler environment so you are well prepared for whatever challenges are thrown your way because you have operated in this complexity and this environment with a different set of cultures every day.”

Another big contributor? Ford’s general strategy of insourcing. “While other companies have done wholesale outsourcing, we are on a steady path of selective sourcing. It is not that we do not outsource things… We do leverage different models, but the core business of Ford, especially that business that brings unique value to Ford, we have always kept in house. That allows us to grow leaders that have experiences, of all sorts, that I think help people become well rounded IT professionals.”

She went on to say: “Cost is [a] factor, but not the deciding factor. Two other things are. We have also taken our business application portfolio and said is this application and portfolio differentiated or non-differentiated. If it is not, it means it is commodity-like, it may be a candidate for outsourcing or selective sourcing opportunity. If it is differentiated, which means it has unique value, we would not outsource that. We may outsource our staff with key resources, but we will tend to keep those skills near to us and our business customers.

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Ms. Klevorn concluded: “The last piece of the triage that we do is regardless of those two items, is this a space that helps develop our team. To create the next XYZ person, what unique skills does that person need to have to be successful. If you give away all those experiences, it is difficult to grow that.”

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Written by Aaron Brzozowski

Aaron Brzozowski is a writer and motoring enthusiast from Detroit with an affinity for '80s German steel. He is not active on the Twitter these days, but you may send him a courier pigeon.

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