Ford Motor Co. is making a bigger deal of big data by appointing a global chief data and analytics officer who is tasked with pulling together the disparate efforts around the company to gather and use the enormous amount of digital information flowing in the company.
Paul Ballew, who ran consulting firm Dun and Bradstreet ’s global data and analytics and previously held the same position at Nationwide Insurance Co., returns to Detroit for the position. He left General Motors Co. , where he was the chief sales analyst, for Nationwide in October 2007.
The auto industry has been trying to find ways to use the huge amount of data flowing into individual companies to better forecast consumer behavior and make smarter business decisions. But until recently the successes have been scattered.
As cars become more connected to the Internet and smart phones, and even the machines building cars go online, the amount of information a company can glean is set to explode.
“There will be a large wave of even more data coming into the company,” said Mark Fields , the Chief Executive Officer, said in an interview Monday. “It’s really important to have a centralized person bringing that together.”
Ford already has had some success in using the data it has gathered. Ford created a new system for ordering vehicles for its dealers that analyzes sales and inventory data in a given region of the country and then tells the dealer what kinds of cars, and even what options on those cars, the dealer should order. This replaced informed guesses by dealership managers. The result is that cars have been sold much faster because the cars that the data predicted will be the hottest sellers are ready to go on the lot and consumers don’t have to wait for an order or potentially take their business elsewhere.
Across town, General Motors Co. has been forging ahead with a massive effort to construct its own data empire. It has built two data warehouse centers and hired 8,000 information technology workers in the past two years. Its efforts are handled by GM’s chief information officer.
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