Agile work at CARIAD: Developing a customer web application
Torben Schramme is a System Engineer at CARIAD and part of a small team developing the myVolkswagen web application. In this article, he explains how we work at CARIAD and the important role that agile methods play in his project.
At CARIAD, we’re developing the leading tech stack for the automotive industry. But, with it, we’re also creating a whole new ecosystem. This opens up the exciting opportunity for additional mobility services across the car’s lifecycle and enables us to be more customer-centric than ever before. A wide range of customer functions – including automated driving, a personal assistant or a new infotainment system – will make the automotive experience safer, more sustainable, more comfortable and more convenient.
As this ecosystem will benefit the lives of millions of customers around the world, it’s crucial that the underlying platform performs well and is reliable. To help us to keep up with the speed and frequency of changes to software across the car’s lifecycle, we need to make the most of agile work. This allows us to adapt quickly to improve the performance of the platform and services, and to update them on the basis of changing customer requirements – as we’re already doing through over-the-air updates, for example.
Agile work at CARIAD
So today, the engineering and development process doesn’t end with selling the vehicle. The sale of the vehicle really just marks the beginning of the engineering and development process. Continuous improvements, updates and upgrades to the vehicle take a different culture and development approach: This work involves a lot of test-driven development, where quality comes first. We make use of practices like Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment, supported by a DevOps approach. SAFe is used for project management and to coordinate the team, with development cycles of three months. Developers are given the freedom and flexibility to decide on the toolchain, languages and methods used.
In the very center of our work is the customer product, around which are a number of interdisciplinary, agile teams. These consist of product owners working on the regulatory side of the project, as well as developers, UX and content designers, and system architects. All team members are encouraged to contribute their own ideas, to learn more about the product and predict what the customer might need in the next month.
Where exactly is agile work needed?
To give a practical example and illustrate why agile work is so important at CARIAD, let’s take a look at the myVolkswagen customer web application.
In our vehicle ecosystem, myVolkswagen, in addition to solutions such as mobile apps, represents part of the front end. The web application includes a virtual garage where the customer’s vehicles are listed and where they can find current information for each car at a glance, including mileage and charge level. The customer can also find various different tutorials and current offers.
Behind the clean interface and seamless experience presented to the customer are a number of challenges involved in the development of this application:
1. Firstly, as Volkswagen is the car for everyone, there’s no specific target group for myVolkswagen. The platform has to cater to a wide variety of customer needs, which means that the software has to be adapted flexibly and accordingly.
2. Secondly, myVolkswagen is used by 1.7 million customers across 40 markets, with thousands of users using the platform every day, so the software needs the capacity to deal with a large user base.
3. And thirdly, a website can be modified almost each and every day. To keep up with those changes, we at CARIAD need to make the most of agile working methods.
My role as a Systems Engineer can be compared to that of the oil in an engine, responsible for making sure that all the individual components run smoothly together. To develop and maintain myVolkswagen, my day-to-day work involves constant communication between specialist departments and development teams, as well as the coordination of different information, expectations and ways of thinking. Everything needs to be harmonized from a technical, specialist and legal perspective. With so many moving parts, demands and expectations can change at the last minute, which is another reason why agile working is needed.
In my team, I work with six excellent developers. Not only do they understand what the customer needs, but they’re fully committed to developing a world-leading automotive software platform and being part of a huge transformation in the industry. And as in-house colleagues at CARIAD, they really are part of the product team. They’re not simply given requirements and told how things should be done – they’re presented with a task and given the opportunity to suggest and develop solutions themselves. In that sense, software developers at CARIAD have true freedom to work with their own skills and knowledge.
We need you!
At CARIAD, we’re looking for software developers to build the leading tech stack in the automotive industry. We’re not dedicated to one particular technology or coding language, but need a whole spectrum of skill sets. This includes everything from expertise in Typescript, React and single-page applications to Enterprise Architecture, Java Spring Boot and Microsoft Azure. And, of course, we also need to consolidate specialists that have experience with agile working methods. We’re looking for tech experts to work on front-end and back-end development, as well as embedded systems within the car itself, and to test the functionality of the ecosystem.