René Te-Strote is a project lead at BMW Central IT. He’s been with the company for 17 years and heavily involved in its agile transformation, which was driven by titanic shifts in the automotive industry. “Today vehicles are packed with software. Hundreds of millions of lines of code are running in cars and in the backend,” says René on a recent webinar.
BMW’s IT department has had to become faster, more innovative, and increasingly focused on quality. Everything must be cloud-ready, scalable, networked, connected and secure, such that pure coding is now the smallest part of IT initiatives. The company’s shift in terms of mindset and technology was captured in Tasktop CEO Dr. Mik Kersten’s book, Project to Product.
In recent years, René has been leading an IT project supporting BMW’s Chinese joint venture called BMW Brilliance Automotive Ltd. (BBA). He’s had to deal with the challenges of international cooperation, distributed supply chains, and globally distributed teams to enable the R&D center in BBA according to the vehicle simulation model in Germany.
Tasktop has been partnering with BMW since 2011. Today, Tasktop provides the simulation data supply to China and the data integration for the control unit development (E/E). It also ensures the data consistency in BMW’s agile toolchains.
“Today, we can integrate different software products with each other much more quickly than before. And at the same time, we are much better able to gain new insights from our data and to use them to become better and faster.”
René credits the massive success of this project (one year early despite the pandemic!) with the following core principles:
Treat the Agile Working Model as a Product
“It’s not enough to use Jira to be agile.” BMW’s Agile Working Model is based on cherrypicked features from Scrum, LeSS, and SAFe® that suited the company. At first, there was a lot of trial and error to understand what worked for them, and sometimes the work on the collaboration model itself had to take front seat to actual coding.
Now that the model has stabilized, it itself is treated as a product, with one or more releases each year to adapt and refine it incrementally.
Enable Self-improving Teams
Today, BMW operates a software development center on an industrial scale, with the same high quality as their vehicle development and production. The key was empowering value streams to self-improve.
“It is important to give the team methods and tools to check themselves, measure themselves, and find out how each individual and the team as a whole can improve,” says René of the core tenets of value stream management. With constant feedback into their bottlenecks, teams were able to self-improve to the point where they can often provide new features faster than the business can raise new demands.
“If you don’t know your bottlenecks, you risk focusing on the wrong things and falling behind the competition,” sums up René.
Culture Is as Important as Code
When René set out to establish a collaboration model between BMW in Germany and BBA in China, he quickly realized that success hinged on the ability of people to work together. Methods and processes are important, but without trust and intimacy they will achieve nothing. Changing culture is critical to transformation.
In 2019, René spent over 100 days in China, getting to know his Chinese counterparts, building friendships, and learning to bridge cultural differences. A strong technical infrastructure was there to support the collaboration, flow, and feedback to then make those partnerships successful.
Optimizing Digital Product Lines with Value Stream Management at BMW Group
During this on-demand webinar, BMW Group Senior Project Lead, René Te-Strote and Tasktop Founder and CEO, Dr. Mik Kersten present the need for:
- Integrating production lines that span both physical and digital assets (such as software delivery and simulation)
- Managing products better to improve time-to-market
- Architecting around end-to-end value flow
- Optimizing end-to-end across value streams to find bottlenecks (such as BMW’s need to flow simulation data between Germany and China)