Nissan has six regions to its global business, with Kneebone based in Paris – the Japanese giant struck an alliance with French manufacturers Renault in 1999, but in the last two decades has become a significant factor in the UK and European manufacturing sector.

Nissan employs 185,000 people globally. Last year, its UK factory made 501,756 cars and since the plant opened in the 1980s it has manufactured over seven million cars.

In 2013 Nissan had a three-month waiting list for its Quashqai model that has been in production since 2007, which  is impressive and almost unheard of in the highly competitive car manufacturing industry.

But that hasn’t always been the case. Nissan was once known for models such as the Sunny and the Bluebird. These were very reliable but uninteresting. In today’s competitive, digital retail industry, manufacturing a product that is uninspiring guarantees you will be overtaken.

Since the turn of this century, Nissan has reinvigorated itself and is now a company with innovative products to match its culture.

Stephen Kneebone joined Nissan in February 2006 as a Programme Manager within the Nissan Europe IS/IT function. He has been General Manager for Organisation Development since 2007 together with External Affairs in Europe since October 2011 and became CIO in 2012 as a result of his change experience.

Kneebone has a background in engineering and business transformation obtaining a PhD from Coventry University in 2004. Prior to joining Nissan Stephen worked in the Automotive and Aerospace industries predominantly in business and technology leadership roles.

“Monozukuri is about having a state of mind, the spirit to produce not only excellent products but also have the ability to constantly improve the production system and its processes,” state the management professionals, and Kneebone tells me the principals run throughout Nissan.

“It is a mindset to constantly improve, not just in the making, but also the bringing to market,” he explains. “How we set the business objectives, KPIs and how they are translated through the organisation through this model.”

What the judges said:

“Most of the other car manufacturers focus on the retail outlet. Nissan is the first one to be driving the true multi-channel experience. They are looking at themselves as retailers and should be applauded for that and he has made it work with the CDO. ” Mike Altendorf

“He shows really good collaboration skills for this industry.” Ian Cox

When did you start your current role?

Have you completed an MBA?
BEng, MSc, PhD.

Order the following sources of advice/information by value to you:

  1. Peer Group
  2. In-house
  3. Analyst
  4. Consultant
  5. Vendors

Technology strategy and spending

What is the major transformational IT project that has been recently completed, or is underway at your organisation?
To become number one Asian brand in Europe with over 5% market share requires a number of operational transformations.

Transformation Leadership:
Having responsibility for both technology and business transformation capabilities is a distinct advantage in driving a portfolio of business and technology breakthroughs that includes; order to delivery, digital customer experience, manufacturing  expansion, business intelligence and vehicle distribution.

Transformation Programme:
‘Distribution Breakthrough’ has been launched to ensure that we have the organisation, processes and systems required to deliver sales and operations planning.

What impact will it/does it have on the organisation?
The Current Challenge:
Customer perspective; we have a slightly higher than average rejection rate due to lack of required volume and associated specification within target markets.

Dealer perspective: Nissan is rated market average for On Time Delivery, Lead Times and Production ordering systems.

Operational perspective; distribution system is agile but inefficient with opportunities to further streamline and integrate planning and allocation processes.

Target Condition:
Sales and Operations Planning:
Focused upstream, managing the gap between push and pull targeted to address core distribution processes, demand forecasting, sales forecasting, marketing and business planning. This is to be supported by a collaborative Sales and Operations Planning tool in this case the Sales and Operations Planning solution selected is Steelwedge deployed as SAAS.

Dealer distribution management:
Integrated downstream management of vehicle source securing the ‘best supply’ for the dealer.

Smart enablers:
Establishing end to end process KPIs, leading operational indicators, process and systems operations formally mapped and made accessible to support operations business continuity and training.

What new strategic technology deals has your organisation struck and with whom?
We have recently partnered with Microsoft chosing Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Workday as a base for a Global HR system and Steelwedge Sales and Operations Planning technology.

Name your strategic technology suppliers?
We are gradually consolidating our systems and infrastructure landscape to provide a more robust and scalable platform, technologies being considered to support transformation include; SAP, Microsoft, IBM, SteelWedge, Workday.

IT operational spend compared to the revenue or company turnover as a percentage?
Over the past six years we have delivered a 35% reduction in annual systems operations costs, we have achieved this whilst absorbing business expansion and increased scope of services. Our annual operating costs are just 0.6% of turnover, top quartile Automotive industry benchmark is 0.8%.

What is the strategic aim of the CIO and IT operations for the next financial year?
Successive business reform strategies have been firmly underpinned by breakthrough Global Information System strategies / delivering the power base to create Value and Innovation.

We currently have a Global Renault Nissan Information Systems Strategy that underpins our mid-term ambition known as VITESSE.

Value Innovation: Delivering to the Business Breakthroughs that our operations demand.

Technology Simplification: streamlining our infrastructure to improve performance and deliver further efficiencies.

Service Excellence: Delivering the Service our employees deserve and our Customers Demand

As CIO this is my mission to ensure that we continue to innovate, that Nissan changes fastest of all, delivering technology that truly engages employees and excites our customers.

Not only must we be brilliant at the basics, ensuring that our internal customers our employees have the tools they deserve.

We must also continue to drive greater efficiencies in our systems of record, build on those that differentiate us from our competitors, deliver to the operational breakthroughs that our business demands.

This is a journey that will continue to have significant and long lasting impact on the way we are organised, our operational processes and the systems that support them.

Transformation achievements

Would you describe the CIO role as a transformation leader in your organisation?
Absolutely without question, Nissan has a strong ethos of continuous improvement, execution and delivering that is key to delivering to our ambitious mid-term plan. Having responsibility for both technology and the business programme management office is a distinct advantage in leading and collaborating across the whole business to deliver to the ongoing transformation agenda. Transformation and ongoing improvement of the core IS function is also a fundamental element of the role.

Describe the transformations you have led / been involved in, how did they transform operations, customer experience or the organisation?
One of our transformational challenges has been to deploy a unique One Brand, One Voice, digital platform, across the whole of Europe to deliver 'Digital Excellence'. To deploy one single platform for eight Regional Business Units across twenty four countries. Decommissioning a multitude of locally sourced and supported platforms whilst at the same time providing the flexibility for markets to use the platform to deploy their own promotions, brand experiences, and campaigns.

Nissan a challenger brand in the Automotive world is poised to be a leader in the digital world.

A platform that fits our Japanese DNA, agile the ability to continuously improve, with a level of performance in delivery to match.

We are now able to track data online, in real time to understand consumer behaviours, from media they are consuming, from banners, social, e-mailings. Understanding how consumers navigate and interact from the initial online experience through to the dealership the sales process and aftermarket.

The Brand is tracked on-line to understand the impact of digital, digital is where we can connect more closely with our customers, where we directly impact sales, where we deliver innovation that excites .........we don’t just talk about it.

Beyond technology, can you describe a business transformation programme that you own or contribute to?
Business Transformation
Securing Nissans position as a Zero Emissions Leader in Europe, bringing the first Electric Vehicle to mass market with the LEAF.

As Vice President also responsible for External and Government Affairs I have built a team that has been instrumental in securing a positive environment for the launch of LEAF.

- Corporate Political Reputation - through engagement with governments and public bodies across Europe. Ensure that Nissan is recognised as a leader in bringing electric mobility and technology to the masses. Such dialogue has been key in positioning Nissan as a major contributor to direct job creation, skills, training and advance engineering.

- Collaboration projects with other Automotive OEMs, Universities and public bodies for research and development to promote the broader electric mobility agenda.

- Legislative impacts on the business are managed through dialogue with governments at a national and European level to secure market led Electric Vehicle technology standards.

- Electric Vehicle market creation is achieved by working with governments and partners to incentivise and accelerate the right conditions for consumers to make the transition to electric mobility.  

As CIO I also share the responsibility for the delivery of onboard vehicle telematic systems that were first deployed on the Nissan LEAF, subsequently enhanced with Facebook and Google Search now deployed on the all new Nissan Qashqai.

What key technologies are being considered to enable transformation?
We are gradually consolidating our systems and infrastructure landscape to provide a more robust and scalable platform, technologies being considered to support transformation include; SAP, Microsoft, IBM, SteelWedge, Workday.

What percentage of your applications / infrastructure is run from the Cloud?
We are delivering on a number of key initiatives to leverage cloud infrastructure and delivery of business applications as a service including; procure to pay, talent management, customer relationship management, secure file sharing and storage, travel and expense management.

How is the use by employees of their own technology, use of mobiles and social networking impacting operations, customer experiences or the organisation at present?
Mobile and social enabled digital customer experience is fundamental to our business, Nissan traditionally a challenger automotive brand is leading the field in digital, deeply engage consumers in our brand delivering an innovative and exciting customer experience.

Do you have a plan in place for how to deal with shadow IT and BYOD. How do you influence and engage executives, place the right controls around employee choice and engage with the organisation on this issue?
We have a systematic enterprise wide initiative harnessing Business Process Management and Enterprise Architecture capabilities to formally align core business processes and the technology utilised to enable them this specifically includes ‘shadow IT’. We also have an ongoing programme to fully leverage BYOD whilst supporting BYOD to a limited scope and population.

Where do you seek transformational inspiration from?
Personally I take inspiration from those individuals and teams in all walks of life that succeed ‘against the odds’ and through sheer determination and commitment exceed expectations.

I am fortunate to have had the opportunity and experience of building new businesses from start-up, growing new business lines and delivering numerous business and technology transformations in global organisations.

Nissan has a distinct execution, delivery and continuous improvement ethos. Success is in harnessing this drive, building and leading a team to deliver in a relentlessly fast paced challenging environment. I am extremely proud to be part of the Nissan team challenging the norms leveraging technology to deliver business breakthroughs.

The CIO role in the business

Who do they report to?
CFO and report to Global Renault Nissan CIO and Regional CFO

Does the CIO have a seat on the board?

How often do you meet with the CEO?

Does your organisation have a digital leader and what is the difference in their responsibilities to yours?
We are in the process of establishing a Digital Services Organisation to complement and support delivery of an end to end Digtal Cutomer Journey. Digital is where IS can really have a role, as the experience has to be engaging, offering online configuration and design. An integrated centre of excellence delivering digital services will allow us to up our game and make buying a car a more natural retail experience.

The IT department

How many staff make up the IT team?(What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff)
I have a team of 250 across Europe, 33% of our resources secured to support operations and projects are based in Leading Competitive Countries including our captive centre in Chennai.

Describe the CIO’s management team, do you have direct reports that develop the relationship and services between the business and IT?
Direct reports include General Managers for each key domain;, Sales & Marketing, Manufacturing & Supply Chain, Research & Development, Service & Technology Delivery, Quality & Resource Management and Programme Management.

How many log-in accounts do you issue across you organisation?
Across Europe we have over 10,000 log in accounts.