Software that shares gains share
Microsoft SharePoint fosters collaboration globally at GM, Ford
CIO Terry Kline: GM shifted to SharePoint because "we saw the move to global platforms coming."
Today the software -- which enables employees to share documents, build Web sites and team up on projects -- continues to serve the automaker well, Terry Kline, GM's CIO, told Automotive News.
Most recently, GM engineers around the globe used SharePoint to collaborate on the development of the Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan, Kline said. The car, built on the global Delta platform, is on sale in Asia and will be launched in the United States in the third quarter of this year.
"We saw the move to global platforms coming, so we tried to get out in front of it," Kline said, explaining the decision to buy an early version of SharePoint.
Now others are following GM's lead. Its rising popularity in the auto industry has helped to make SharePoint Microsoft's fastest-growing product. It is also widely used in the financial services sector and other industries.
Global sales of SharePoint have surged since 2007, when an upgrade provided users with faster search capabilities and the ability to upload and send documents faster.
SharePoint sales grew from about $800 million in 2007 to about $1.3 billion in 2009, said David Graff, Micro-soft Corp.'s industry sales director for the automotive, aerospace and industrial equipment sectors. He declined to provide sales to the automotive industry as a percentage of the total.
Ford Motor Co., BorgWarner Inc. and Federal-Mogul Corp. are among the companies that use SharePoint. Most use Microsoft's 2007 version. A 2010 version will be available in May.
For engineers, SharePoint acts as a central repository in which employees can check out designs, comment on them and document refinements without having to create multiple copies and e-mails, Graff said.
In some applications, SharePoint competes with server-client software such as IBM Corp.'s Lotus Notes. It also can serve as a supporting framework for product and process design software made by companies that include Siemens PLM.
Eric Karsten, Ford's enterprise engineering manager, said the automaker has a communication portal on SharePoint for its 198,000 employees and thousands of retirees worldwide.
All of Ford's global product development groups use SharePoint to share schedules and launch information. SharePoint has been used to develop new cars and trucks, including the new Ford Focus compact sedan.
SharePoint also is used to lead discussions when regional insights can help refine designs, Karsten said. The tool has been particularly handy for addressing varying environmental and safety regulations around the world.
With SharePoint, Ford has standardized on one format to get regional input from engineers. That ensures that Ford's engineering standards meet all of its markets' requirements.
Finding new uses
Engine and drivetrain parts maker BorgWarner has been using SharePoint since 2007 for a variety of applications, including product design verification and intranet communications. But the suburban Detroit company still finds new applications for the software, said Sandra Short, BorgWarner's director of enterprise business systems.
BorgWarner recently built a feature on its SharePoint supplier communications portal where it posts quality scorecards, manuals and other information, said Chuck Winkler, BorgWarner's manager of Web applications. BorgWarner recovered the cost of deploying SharePoint to the company's 59 facilities worldwide within 18 months, Short said. She declined to provide the total cost.
Federal-Mogul, an engine parts maker in suburban Detroit, went live with SharePoint last August. The system enabled Federal-Mogul to consolidate data on a single platform rather than store files on different servers all over the organization, said Dave Bachleda, information systems director for performance management.
Said Bachleda: "It gives us a place to collect and track information."
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