S&DCE: You are uniquely positioned as both the vice president for procurement and the CIO. Please talk about your general philosophy on the role of technology in transforming the procurement function.
Shanti: Well, I don't know if it's really unique or not. My background is engineering, but you're right, I have spent most of my career in the IT business and only recently took over the procurement department.
I always view myself as a businessman first. I believe that CIOs must always understand the business they are in. They must not only understand the domain that they manage, which is the technology domain, but they must also understand the business that they're in which in AAM's case is manufacturing. You've got to understand the business inside and out. That way you can develop strategies that help the business. If you're running the IT department, you build IT enablement strategies that support and grow the business, and you look at the technologies and the impact that they might have on the business.
I came into the procurement department with no history in procurement. I didn't know how procurement people function. But I did know one thing: I know the business that we're in. And I know that, as a company, we need to be globally competitive. So I build my strategy according to that need.
The other thing is, you've got to look at what kind of technical and technological tools you could implement in an organization to be different, to be enabled, such as integrating our suppliers. I've done that sort of thing in my past life internally, inside the company, but today I have the opportunity to go beyond our walls, into our supply chain, which I'm now responsible for.
But at the end of the day, it's Business 101. If you don't know the business, it doesn't matter what department you're running, you're not going to run it effectively, at least for the long-term.