The Nissan & IBM Outsourcing Agreement

Introduction

In the year, prior to the turn of the millennium, Nissan was a company in a serious financial crisis. Debt had approached $22 billion by 1999. The company had been too complacent, and had taken its prior success, for granted [2].

Did Nissan’s decision to outsource their IT Infrastructure to IBM in 1999 make good sense? Nissan was a very troubled auto-manufacturer in the late 1990’s. Senior executives from the company were known for their conservative outlook on business, and their ‘old boy’s network,’ mentality. Profits were dropping dramatically, eventually forcing the company into the $22 Billion debt that it then faced. There were no signs indicating a change in the market that would encourage profit growth. The vehicle sales needed invigoration.

Mergers were the flavor of the day in the automotive industry during the late 1990’s. Nissan executives approached Daimler Chrysler and Ford to discuss a possible merger, but there was no interest from either of the companies [2]. There was only one alternative left, which was to reinvent themselves and reduce unnecessary overheads. This was the defining point that led to the business process outsourcing decision. software outsourcing

This paper seeks to answer the question “Does the cost of implementing an in-house solution outweigh the benefits or does Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) make more sense?” We reviewed the example of the automotive manufacturer, Nissan, when they decided to outsource their entire Information Technology department to IBM in late 1999, to answer our question.

Nissan – A brief history and the events leading up to the BPO decision

I. The Boom years

Nissan was established in Japan in 1933 as a heavy industry manufacturer. After the Second World War they turned their attention to automotive vehicles. In the 1950’s, they finally had an impact on the global market with the introduction of the Datsun branded sedans and small pickup trucks. The company eventually opened full-time operations in the USA in September 1960 [6].

The company experienced dramatic growth with the introduction of the ‘Z’ series sports sedans in the early 1970’s, with the 240Z becoming the fastest selling sports car of all time. This success led Nissan to the top of the U.S. vehicle importers market by 1975. Vehicle sales in the USA topped over 250,000 units per annum by 1970 [6]. The company was young, its leaders dynamic and the future looked very bright. They were competing for the U.S. market with the likes of Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors, showing improved quality and production efficiencies over their competitors.

The company was growing at a phenomenal rate, opening new manufacturing plants around the world on a regular basis such as Australia (1976), Spain (1980) and the United Kingdom (1984) [6]. There was no respite to the pace of growth and new business generation coming from the company.