IT project managers play a key role within the Volkswagen Group in the development of innovative mobility services that can make the driving experience easier and more pleasant for everyone. Let’s find out why.
“If it’s not crazy, I’m not interested” - not some rock star’s catchphrase but the motivational sentence written in capital letters on a wall in the office of the Berlin digital agency Aperto. Jörn Gröticke, IT Project Manager at Volkswagen, walks past this wall at least twice a week. With a team of programmers, designers and concept developers he works on ideas evoking a “yes – I’m really interested in that” reaction in every Volkswagen driver.
Connecting two teams
“My job is phenomenal because here we have the opportunity to link our vehicles to the digital world in a beneficial way,” explains Gröticke, who has been with Volkswagen since 2000. “The great thing is that we use the vehicle data directly for our applications. As a manufacturer, we have access to it. This opens up a wide range of opportunities for us to develop digital services”.
For the current project, Jörn Gröticke has been working for almost two years with separate teams in two locations, commuting between the two. In Wolfsburg, these are the specialists in electronic vehicle development, quality assurance and testing. In Berlin, he works with software developers, IT system architects and specialists from the digital agency Aperto and IBM. Together they are perfecting what thousands of drivers will soon know as ‘We Experience’.
We Experience - apps driving the revolution
‘We Experience’ is one of the ‘We Connect Go’ smartphone app services, and can also be found as a web app in the infotainment systems of many Volkswagen vehicles (starting from Discover Media Gen. 3.1). ‘We Experience’ users receive personalised tips and recommendations from restaurants, shops or petrol stations in the vicinity – including discount vouchers and small gifts such as free cups of coffee.
It is crucial that Gröticke remains in direct contact with the two teams - issues are much easier to clarify and resolve when they are tackled face to face. There are also specific situations which require Gröticke to be physically present. “The broad test, for example, where we require lots of vehicles for tests under everyday conditions – that can only happen in Wolfsburg. I then have to be in Berlin for the actual development which I have to discuss with those responsible”, adds Gröticke.
Top Secret development
What users perceive as simple and convenient actually requires extensive development work. “An essential part of this work takes place on the ‘Holy Grail’. This is what we jokingly call the test-rack - this allows us to test our service without leaving the office. The test-rack is a kind of infotainment system removed from the car and including all controls”, explains Gröticke.
The Holy Grail is not accessible to everyone and is located in a secure room with taped windows. New functions must be tested successfully before moving to the next step of trialling them in a vehicle - currently a Volkswagen Arteon.
A challenge for the future
“I certainly want to manage projects that are important to people in ten years’ time. This is precisely why Volkswagen is an interesting company for me: the Group offers a broad spectrum of opportunities, especially in the digital environment”, says Gröticke.
These opportunities are growing out of the new ‘Car Software’ unit that Volkswagen Group is building up. This division, aimed at increasing digitalisation performance, will bring together the Group’s digital competencies making it increasingly unnecessary to use external sources for software development. “Developing these kinds of systems and digital services in-house is certainly challenging, but at the same time very stimulating”, adds Gröticke.