Audi and Microsoft discuss the new role of IT
The role of IT is changing from enabler in the background to the driver of strategic developments. This is producing new, agile processes. Sabine Bendiek, Managing Director of Microsoft Germany, and Audi CIO Frank Loydl discuss how these are being implemented in companies.
Bendiek: A lot of patience and trust. We were transparent about the goals we want to achieve – and showed that we are achieving them. This generates positive momentum, also in terms of the willingness to invest. Microsoft views information technology as a fundamental facilitator of new forms of collaboration in which people interact with machines intuitively. Digital transformation means that IT is present in every product and in nearly every situation in life, in one form or another.
Loydl: Yes. However, IT and digitalization are Microsoft’s core business. At Audi, the core business is mobility, and that is strongly tied to hardware. In general, IT is the key driving force behind the company’s transformation. In strategic terms, we view things from three perspectives: Part one is the car as a product and the product-related IT. Part two involves connect services and new digital business models. Part three affects the existing company IT. We can’t lump everything together. The main change involves leaving behind the silos of individual business divisions like “IT for Development” or “IT for Production” and intelligently orienting ourselves toward specific fields of technology. Since we’re not starting from scratch, we launched the transformation project NEXT:IT to migrate Audi IT from the existing structure to this new one.
Bendiek: Making the interfaces between divisions more flexible is the right approach. That’s the only way that agile cooperation is possible. It is also important to understand the requirements of the divisions at such interfaces and let the employees actively help shape things so that IT can really provide the support needed.
Loydl: And that puts us right in the middle of the transformation. It’s important to us to gain the support of as many participants as possible – not as spectators, but as players. This is certainly a challenge in the automotive world, which is still strongly rooted in industrial hierarchal structures.
Bendiek: Transformation needs technology as a means to an end. But people remain at the center of it. So it’s also the managers’ job to bring together many of the demands on IT. We’re asking: How do you deal with people? How do you succeed in approaching entire teams and gaining their support?
Loydl: Exactly. I think a shared system of values is needed for the transformation, one that everyone in the company can refer to – such as respect, courage and openness. This reduces conflicts of goals because people can connect quickly at the values level. Under these conditions, we can introduce agile ways of working into the organization sustainably while simultaneously strengthening the individual skills of individual employees. Nonetheless, I don’t think 100 percent agility makes sense. Instead, we want to use “hybrid agile” work models, in other words models that are flexible and dependent on the specific task. For me, barrier-free and value-oriented cooperation is the most important key to success.
Bendiek: They can play an important role. Collaboration platforms help change the ways we work and help us develop continually. That takes a combined process: I have a new technology, I change my managers’ way of thinking and I motivate a broad range of employees to live this new world of communication.
Loydl: We are already working intensively Group-wide with external partners such as Microsoft, for instance in cloud development. And we are in the process of adding Office 365 and therefore new tools for collaboration to complement our proven cooperation tools. We intensively share experiences about how we can achieve maximum benefits from these IT solutions – across divisions and national borders. Co-innovation will increase speed, quality and also efficiency at Audi. Depending on the topic, we will strengthen value creation in-house or develop digital products or platforms together with partners such as Microsoft in order to offer our customers added value.
Audi on the way to NEXT:IT
- The strategic role of Audi IT as the primary driver of the digital transformation throughout the company focuses on three areas: first, on the car as a product and product-related IT; second, on new digital products and services and third, on company IT that manages processes in the background.
- The goal of the transformation project NEXT:IT is to establish more agile processes and to reposition IT at Audi – according to technologies, not divisions. In addition, different work models are to be adapted so that they optimally match the individual task. The catchphrase is “hybrid agile.”
- Audi is counting on connected platforms throughout the Volkswagen Group. Topics such as the connected car are mapped throughout the Volkswagen Group to achieve maximum synergies.
- Moreover, Audi is increasingly entering into cooperation with other companies. This enables development work that is faster and more effective.