Agile Transformation: Bringing the Porsche Experience into the Digital Future with SAFe
While some companies — most of them tech businesses — are born agile, others are made. Many established companies are now striving for greater agility, with Porsche being no exception. In this post, Jan Burchhardt, Stefan Wiechmann, Bastian Plieninger, and Tobias Freitag explain how they are bringing the Porsche experience into the digital future, including the importance of going agile and the impact it has on our organization.
To stay competitive in an increasingly complex and digitized world, companies must be ready to quickly adapt to shifts in the marketplace. However, while markets are becoming ever more volatile and dynamic, many companies find it difficult to shape change and innovate around the challenges and opportunities of the digital age. How can they execute the change that needs to happen and achieve long-term success?
One crucial step for organizations is, in fact, to increase their agility so that they can quickly respond to challenges, better adapt to their business environment, and achieve greater speed and flexibility. Agile transformation can significantly change the trajectory of an organization, but it requires change in several dimensions. It involves processes, structures, technology and, above all, people.
The Digital Product Organization — How to bring the Porsche experience into the digital future
Agility has always been important for Porsche. As our colleague Uwe Reuter has pointed out, the history of agile work at Porsche dates back as far as 1931 when Ferdinand Porsche founded his engineering office in Stuttgart. While much has changed since then, Porsche’s commitment to innovation has not. The ability to adapt and change, along with the ability to pioneer and develop innovative and smart solutions have been a driving force behind Porsche’s continued growth and success.
A Journey Through the History of Porsche: Why Agile Work Isn’t New to Us
Read about Porsche’s new work history since the start in a garage in 1931.
What has changed profoundly, however, is the technology that drives the automotive industry. At Porsche, we are now heavily invested in and rely upon digital technologies. From Connect Services to My Porsche (our colleagues Marcus Voß and Adrian Föder have written about the “My Porsche Cloud Journey”) to Digital Sales, our “Digital Product Organization” is continually growing, with more and more digital products and services becoming available.
To better focus our efforts and resources and connect all the bright brains at Porsche, we have established the Digital Product Organization. Our overarching vision is to bring the Porsche experience into the digital future — for our customers and the organization. We build digital products that complement our existing product portfolio. The car itself will always be at the center of what we are doing. But we also need to find ways to build exciting, exclusive, and smart digital solutions. Bringing together the two worlds of physical and digital is one of our must-win battles: hardware AND software or digital products and services. Moreover, we shape the transformation with the goal of forming an attractive organization with shared values.
Going Agile: unify methods and goals
We realized at the beginning of our agile transformation journey that we have to improve cross-boundary collaboration. Don’t get us wrong: Our various teams and departments have always built great software and digital products — and many of them had already implemented agile methods. Nevertheless, our job was now to unify approaches, unify goals, and bring the various teams closer together.
We initially tried to define our own framework for this task, but after a while decided to use the Scaled Agile Framework, also known as SAFe. SAFe is an industry-proven framework of principles and practices for the iterative development of software and digital products. It has helped us to bring different goals together. In our daily work, we take up and adapt the underlying values and principles of SAFe. There is a LACE team (Lean-Agile Center of Excellence) as well as four SAFe partners (MHP, Flow Sphere, bridgingIT, and P3) to support our transformation.
Thanks to this journey, we have one set of roles, responsibilities, guidelines and processes which makes a lot of things much easier and makes us able to scale. We utilize a network of cross-functional and self-organized teams that all share the same methods, principles, and processes. We build on what works today and try to continuously learn and improve. For our teams, it is important to be able to quickly respond to feedback, new information, and new ideas. Moreover, we take a customer-centred approach and always try to align our goals with customer requirements.
In short, we now have
1. product-oriented teams: organization of teams and teams of teams (ARTs) around value, bundling of relevant competencies, and synchronized to same procedure and cadence.
2. one language: the same terms for artefacts and routines, the same roles and responsibilities, and similarly applied processes and procedures.
3. one portfolio: lean budgeting and governance, joint objectives and prioritization, and lean portfolio management.
More than 400 people are currently involved in this virtual organization and our SAFe training and workshops. This represents a big investment in Porsche employees. It is important to note, people are at the center of everything we do. We are a big digital family at Porsche and bringing all our talent together into the Digital Product Organization to achieve great things.
As a digital family, we meet regularly to synchronize and track the progress of ongoing projects. The kick-off event at the beginning of the year is a great opportunity to keep everyone focused on the same goals. We also have quarterly “PI planning” meetings where we look at the business context with all teams and plan the next steps together. And at the Porsche Digital Days, Porsche teams from all over the world present their digital products, showing where we are on our joint journey towards a digitally enabled company.
What we have learned so far
Agile means, in fact, many things, but above all, it is a shared commitment. What really matters are the underlying values such as openness, self-commitment, focus. Not to forget the main principles behind agile work: customer orientation, embracing change and continuous improvement, empowerment and self-organization, simplicity, and transparency. In other words, what we learned quite early on is the importance to establish not only ambitious goals but also a shared vision across teams. That requires bringing together different goals and building alignment around a common purpose.
Furthermore, we have learned that it is important to focus on incremental change. We now focus on a small number of topics and pursue them persistently. Transformation takes time. Lifelong learning also means that change is an ongoing process — it never ends. Sometimes, change may be hard, but we are not alone. It affects many areas outside the Digital Product Organization and it is essential that we take others along on the journey.
Embracing stability, innovation and agility
Finally, it is important to keep in mind that successful and long-lived companies are usually the ones that learn to be agile and stable at the same time. On the one hand, they have a backbone that gives them stability. On the other hand, they never rest, embrace new opportunities, value innovation, and new ideas, and constantly evolve.
It is the combination of stability and agility that drives us forward.
And indeed, it is the combination of stability and agility that drives us forward. Tradition plays an immensely important role in shaping the fascination of our company. Yet at the same time, we embrace innovation and agility. That is how we want to bring the Porsche experience into the digital future.
Jan Burchhardt is the Director Digital Transformation at Porsche AG
Stefan Wiechmann works as the Head of Infotainment Functions at Porsche AG
Bastian Plieninger works as the Head of Digital Products at Porsche Digital
Tobias Freitag is Business Unit Manager and Competence Lead at Bridging IT
About this publication: Where innovation meets tradition. There’s more to Porsche than sports cars — we’re tackling new challenges, develop digital products and think digital with a focus on the customer. On our Medium blog, we tell these stories. It´s about our #nextvisions, smart technologies and the people that drive our digital journey.