How the Volkswagen Group promotes in-house software development with its Software Development Center

Admittedly, most people don’t immediately associate the Volkswagen Group with a hip, cool software joint. However, the Wolfsburg automotive manufacturer has an area which concentrates entirely on the development of strategic and innovative software solutions, using completely agile methods. In Group IT’s Software Development Center (SDC) in Wolfsburg and Berlin, software developers and UX/UI designers work alongside product owners and product managers. They are supported by agile coaches who give them methodological advice on the spot. What’s special about it? From the start of the project, all the participants form cross-functional product teams. This enables the product owners’ requirements to be translated directly into the intended functionality of the application, by means of constant interaction between the partners. You see, Volkswagen has to come closer to the customer in order to really meet their needs – which is precisely why solutions are developed in-house, together with the client.

While the software developers write the lines of code together as a pair, the designers look at the entire process to see whether the product provides the required usability. The team constellation is determined by the product with a view to developing high-quality software in a short time. Genuine openness to feedback, mutual support to work out the best possible solution, knowledge transfer, team spirit and the exchange of ideas on an equal footing by means of flat hierarchies: all these aspects of cooperation within the SDC are not only demanded of each colleague but also encouraged. This means that social skills are just as important as technical expertise. That’s because, in order to maintain the highest possible product quality, the project participants must always continue to reflect on themselves, consider new solution approaches and allow suggestions from outside.

A change in the Volkswagen Group has made this possible, since the basis of agile cooperation is the division of power between different responsible parties. Up until now, the entire responsibility lay with the management. It is now divided amongst the roles of a product owner, scrum master/agile coach and the product team. This division enables employees to take the necessary decisions. With their expert knowledge, they have the complete competence to do so. And that, ultimately, has an effect on the work quality, because when responsibility for one’s own product is combined with a great deal of passion and enjoyment in designing it, the result benefits greatly.

This also means, specifically, that the developers have the freedom to select the technologies used by the team themselves. Tried and tested concepts are deployed just as much as newer technologies. The developers’ motto is: “We build it, we run it!”. This means that it is their decision whether the technology stack is selected to be completely “bleeding-edge” or more conservative. The later maintainability of the product also determines which programming language is selected by the team. For economic reasons, most teams decide to develop their applications in the cloud.

Development is always test-driven and programming is done in pairs. This means that two software developers share a workplace and work on the code together on an equal footing. This enables them to ensure the code’s quality right from the start. This has several advantages: first, high costs of reworking the delivered product are avoided from the outset, since the pair reflect each other to minimise errors. Second, knowledge is constantly exchanged between the two, since pairs consist of programmers from different backgrounds. For example, if one person is passionate about and has a wealth of knowledge in Go, he ideally works in a pair with a colleague who has a better command of another programming language. The exchange of views benefits both members: one of them learns a new language, while the other improves the code quality by responding to the comprehension questions posed by the first partner. Cross-role pairs are also possible since it is ultimately only helpful for the various facets of the product if team members understand and also deploy the competences of their colleagues. This raises the problem-solving ability of the entire team, which in turn has a positive effect on product quality.

The SDC currently consists of 75 employees, and the highly motivated product teams are presently still recruiting. Your training background is not necessarily the most important criterion; career changers are also very welcome. As well as classic IT specialists, mathematicians and media and industry designers, for example, also work in the SDC. Because the product teams work so closely together, it is not just the competencies and experiences that have to fit but also the soft skills. This is why we use the multi-step selection process to see if the chemistry is right from the start.

Why not come and meet us at the WeAreDevelopers convention! Our stand is close to the Developers Chillout Lounge (booth 1.128); we look forward to meeting and talking to you. Or take a look at our careers website; we are still recruiting for our teams.

We are agile and support our employees in discovering the new working methods for themselves. Our agile coaches advise and support those interested in taking this path.

Volkswagen Group IT

Group IT – Worldwide, Cross-brand, and Networked

At Volkswagen Group IT, we promote the digitalization of Volkswagen and its products at our headquarters in Wolfsburg, at all production plants throughout the Group, in our Software Development Centers and in our IT labs around the world.

Group IT in Wolfsburg is the strong heart, with top experts and comprehensive expertise. At all our sites, we support the core business areas and provide the Group-wide IT infrastructure, with central data centers and worldwide networks. We protect it using our IT security programmes across all brands and countries. We continue to develop by deploying and expanding future-orientated technologies such as cloud computing, thus creating an important basis for digitalization in the Volkswagen Group.

Software competence is high-priority for us: our Software Development Centers in Wolfsburg and Berlin deliver tailor-made software solutions on behalf of all brands and departments – for our customers, for our dealerships, and for all our company’s applications. We rely on values-based, agile working methods such as Scrum, Pair or Extreme Programming. These forms of cooperation promote quality, creativity and a fast delivery of results.

We are agile and support our employees in discovering the new working methods for themselves. Our agile coaches advise and support those interested in taking this path.

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