Information Technology (IT)
Volkswagen is working hard on strengthening its digital competencies with a view to shaping and safeguarding the Company’s future viability. To this end we are continuously upgrading our IT systems so that they are sustainable in the long term and are progressively moving our systems and applications over to new cloud platforms. Our primary concern is further increasing the efficiency of the IT systems used throughout the Company and standardizing these as far as possible. We are also concentrating on building up our expertise and specialist IT knowledge, especially in key digital technologies such as artificial intelligence and the use of new IT technologies in products, services and business processes.
To safeguard the development of core competencies in our Company in the fields of technology, digitalization and autonomous driving, we are building up IT resources that will help shape and push the Company’s digital transformation.
The Group IT Steering Committee was formed in fiscal year 2019 for this purpose. In addition to managing the Group’s IT portfolio, this steering committee will enable synergies to be leveraged more efficiently and promote communication with departments on IT projects. Group-wide planning and management of portfolios will ensure coordinated use of budgets and resources in the development, implementation and use of IT solutions within the Group.
Volkswagen is embracing digitalization in the Company at its in-house IT labs, for example. The labs act as centers of innovation and expertise that conduct research and experiment with new technologies. Here, Group IT, research institutions, technology partners and policy-makers are working closely together on future trends in information technology. At the same time, the labs function as liaison offices for start-ups. This allows the experience and strategic expertise of a large company like Volkswagen to be combined with the pragmatism and speed of young start-ups. Highly specialized experts at the IT labs in San Francisco and Munich, for example, are working on exploiting the potential of quantum computers for areas that have a commercial application. The focus here is on optimization of flows of traffic and simulation of materials and alloys. Initial experimental projects are also investigating opportunities for combining the potential of quantum computers with self-learning systems (quantum machine learning).
In addition to topics such as data analytics (process for the systematic analysis of data in electronic form) and decentralized databases, which allow network participants to jointly process and store data (distributed ledger technologies), the IT labs are used to realize knowledge transfer throughout the entire Company, and to make new technologies usable for the Company. For instance, numerous “bot” projects are being implemented to automate business processes (robotic process automation). Self-learning systems will intelligently analyze data to assist staff in recurring administrative work steps by preparing these activities independently and giving them to staff for a decision.
The further convergence of different business areas with IT is also opening up opportunities.
In production, for example, big data processes help us to analyze faulty machinery and take action at an early stage. Big data refers to data volumes that are too vast and too complex to be analyzed and evaluated using manual or conventional methods. Production processes are also safeguarded by artificial intelligence and camera systems (computer vision). The systems and equipment in the factory are combined into an integrated overall system. This will allow efficiency to be increased and digital pilot projects to be integrated into the existing architecture much more easily than before. Applied research in the field of intelligent human-robot collaboration and IT systems to control mobile assistive robotics are also important elements of the digitalization of production at the Volkswagen Group.
Group IT is likewise contributing its expertise in the field of research and development in conjunction with the different departments. For instance, digitalized work tools such as the “virtual concept vehicle” make the product development process faster and more efficient.
Value creation in sales is being increased with the help of advanced analytics (a process for systematic analysis of future events and behavior), for example on distribution parking lots for vehicles and in sales planning.
The “IT for everyone” initiative aims to give all employees at Volkswagen AG access to digital media and work tools. The objective is to further improve communication and collaboration among production and administrative employees. An important issue in this connection is the growing volume of official work being performed on mobile devices. The Company’s internal network Group Connect promotes knowledge transfer and networking among all employees. The platform puts experts in touch with one another across brands and internationally. In software development centers we develop cross-brand software for digital ecosystems and for new business processes in the Group. We thereby maintain in-house expertise in the rapid, demand-oriented development of software and IT solutions. This capability will become increasingly important as the Company’s digital transformation evolves.
At the new software development center established in Lisbon in 2019, software architects, designers and developers are working together on IT projects in the areas of sales and marketing and on the connected car, among other things. The project work is flanked by a lean, agile development process based on the simultaneous work of teams of two (pair programming).
Cutting-edge technologies for the industrial internet of Things are being developed at the new software development center in Dresden. In collaboration with a leading cloud provider, Amazon Web Services, we are working on a digital production platform that will enable Volkswagen to significantly reduce its production costs in the future.
Safeguarding data and systems at the Volkswagen Group is another focus of our IT. In order to also protect our customers against cyberattacks and ensure that our solutions are in conformity with national and international legislation, we are continuing to implement an integrated, cross-brand, cross-regional Information Security Management System (ISMS) as part of the Protected Customer program. The Group offers documents, templates and tools to all Group companies and brands in the form of an ISMS toolbox to help them implement their own ISMS. Key central information security processes have been audited and certified within the international ISO 27001 framework. This is the most important standard for information security and extends beyond IT to also cover issues such as human resource security, compliance, physical security and legal requirements. One of the aims of the program, which is set to run until 2021, is also to safeguard the complete life cycle of our vehicles and the digital mobility services.
In fiscal year 2019, another focus of IT was on continuing the systematic implementation of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which was combined in a Group program and rolled out in all corporate functions. In the course of the sustainable implementation of the GDPR, the data protection processes and procedures in place in the brands will be consolidated and standardized further. When new IT solutions are being developed, the requirements will be enforced from the outset. Transparency in the processing and minimization of data is a key goal on which we will continue to work. To ensure sustainable observance of the GDPR, we will systematically press ahead with the establishment of the Company-wide data protection management system begun in this reporting period as well as with the data protection organization.
In 2015, Volkswagen AG co-founded Deutsche Cyber-Sicherheitsorganisation GmbH (DCSO). DCSO is accumulating specialist knowledge on cybersecurity and aims to become the preferred service provider to European businesses in this field. DCSO is a competence center and a managed security service provider for protecting companies against criminal hackers, industrial espionage, government attacks and sabotage.