Ford Motor Co. has hired industry veteran Paul Ballew as its first Chief Data and Analytics Officer. The hire, effective Jan. 5, 2015, surfaces as automakers try to gather, manage and monetize mounds of data from cars, dealerships, service stations, mobile devices and the public Internet.

Ballew previously ran Dun and Bradstreet's global data and analytics efforts, and earlier was a chief sales analyst at General Motors Co. He's also held key posts at JD Power & Associates and Nationwide, according to his LinkedIn profile.

On the one hand, Ballew must gather a "flood of digital information," The Wall Street Journal noted. But far more important: Ballew and Ford must make sense of all that information -- turning raw data into true business intelligence that delivers ROI across sales, marketing, customer service, R&D and more.

“We are committed to making people’s lives better through innovations on mobility, connectivity, autonomous vehicles, performance and the customer experience,” said Ford President and CEO Mark Fields, in a prepared statement. “Taking big data and analytics to the next level inside Ford connects all of this work and is a key part of our drive for innovation in every part of our business.”

Ford has enjoyed a data-driven culture for several years. Much of the analytics focus arrived when Boeing veteran Alan Mulally was named Ford's CEO in 2006, company watchers have noted. Mulally exited Ford in July 2014 but the data focus has remained -- and perhaps even accelerated -- amid Fields' leadership.

Ford already has an award-winning analytics team, the company noted amid Ballew's hiring. In 2013, Ford won the INFORMS Prize from the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences for using data science and predictive analytics to improve overall operations and performance.

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