Following its sale by parent company Ford (F) last year, car maker Jaguar Land Rover has had to face the thorny problem of cutting itself loose from Ford's web of business applications.

JLR is spending £200m separating its IT operations from Ford, largely on carrying out the painstaking process of copying and cloning more than 1,600 business applications.

The work – which followed its sale to Indian car manufacturer Tata Motors (TTM) – has ended up "costing an awful lot of money and not adding any business value overall", according to JLR CIO Jeremy Vincent.

"We are now in the final straight. It has been very tough and the whole company have worked extremely hard.

"In the next three to six months, we will be free to pursue our own destiny and to take our own decisions," he said.

Before being free to pursue its own destiny, JLR has to extract 18TB of email from Ford's Microsoft (MSFT) Exchange system.

"When faced with cloning an entire Microsoft Exchange environment across the whole enterprise, I thought – here was a golden opportunity to do something different," Vincent said.

For Vincent, doing something different meant making the decision to migrate 14,500 staff worldwide from Microsoft Outlook to Google (GOOG) Mail and Calendar, part of the search giant's Google Apps suite.

The move has saved Jaguar Land Rover several million pounds compared to the cost of setting up its own Microsoft Exchange server and will offer ongoing service savings as well.

However, Vincent said that getting the old messages into Google Mail had proved "complex", something Google hopes to address with the release of new tools for migrating data from Microsoft Exchange this financial quarter.

Staff will get access to Google Mail within the next four months and in future Vincent is interested in rolling out further apps within the Google Apps suite, such as the word-processing software Google Docs and possibly the collaborative comms software Google Wave.

JLR's move to Google Apps is the company's first step towards simplifying the IT infrastructure it runs in-house and farming out more of its IT services to outsourcers and cloud providers.

"The strategy will be one of simplification, standardisation and modernisation," Vincent said.

"Where I can deem services and technology as being commodity I will seek to externalise, outsource or place them in the cloud."

Jaguar Land Rover already works with software-as-a-service provider (CRM), which provides the systems that house the company's employee records, and Vincent said he is in talks concerning letting Salesforce run more of its services.

Vincent is also planning to talk to the CIOs of its sister companies Tata Technologies and outsourcing giant Tata Consultancy Services (TCS.NS) about how they could work more closely together in future.

In future, with the IT department no longer having to run so many services internally, Vincent said staff will instead play a greater role in managing outsourcers, business process management and choosing and integrating different cloud services.

Vincent may have been a recent convert to cloud computing, but its impact on his strategy has been significant.

"About six or seven months ago I did not have a clue about what cloud computing was and was invited to speak about it at a conference so I had to find out about it – since then it has fundamentally changed my philosophy of IT management and investment."

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