When I worked at a major automotive OEM, we reviewed our IT projects on a regular basis with our global communities.  Using a project management application, we reviewed all our IT projects, beginning with the portfolio and ending with a view of projects that were identified on the agenda. Sound familiar to anyone?

In large automotive OEMs, there can be hundreds of projects in the IT portfolio at any one time. However, if one considers the entire vehicle planning, development, manufacturing, and after sales support projects outside IT, the number of projects supporting the vehicle portfolio is actually in the thousands.  Since IT is a support function to the vehicle teams, project reviews regarding overall status, escalation, etc. with the various vehicle development, manufacturing, supply chain management teams, was done mostly through a management process in meetings such as the one described above.  These different teams had project data that was stored in different systems, as well as different geographic regions.  The lack of a single source of truth for project information relating to the vehicle program(s) resulted in a great deal of extra work to ensure that all of the projects had the same “truth” regarding status, cost, and project information. To maintain accurate information across all teams, this management process needed to be repeated on a consistent basis.

This old approach simply won’t work for the connected and automated vehicles in the future. The software component in these vehicles is increasing product complexity at a remarkable rate.  This also means an increase in the support software in all the backend systems, which are typically managed by the IT group. Vehicle managers generally are concerned about the vehicle configuration management – both in the vehicle as well as in the backend support systems.  However, less attention is given to the change management aspect of the vehicle to backend systems.  One golden rule in product management is that change and configuration management must work together; otherwise, the precise BoM instance of the vehicle and/or the backend support systems can get out of control.  Losing control of an enterprise, global BoM is scary stuff (scary with a capital “S”).   It’s scary because changes that have impact on previous changes are hard to unwind if you don’t know precisely the change process where you lost control of the BoM.

Projects, which have governance, resources and assets, are the primary change agent to make changes in the BOM for the portfolio of vehicles. Today, an OEM would not consider building a vehicle without their vehicle technical portfolio assets (e.g., mechanical, electrical, software, firmware, etc.) under one management umbrella.  Knowing this, why don’t we have the same capability for our project (e.g., change agent) assets?  Answers to this question usually revolve around several items including organization design, role and contract of suppliers, and allocation of funding.  What would happen if we had the same capabilities on an integrated program management platform that linked to all of the vehicle assets? Here are some of the capabilities that would be available to the vehicle teams:

  • Projects share the same configuration and change management process and capabilities as the vehicle. IT, Marketing, and supply chain project management would also share this single source of truth.
  • Visibility of changes to all organizational units is enhanced through standard product management capabilities such as “where used” and “where impacted”. This simplifies product management, since all occurrences of processes and data are under the same search queries, policies, and rules.
  • Classification can be used to help with partitioning views, processes, and reports. For example, all website updates and news releases related to product launch dates are located in one place.
  • Visibility of all groups’ processes and content extends to full depth (vehicle strategy to task) as well as full width (planning to after sales support).
  • The overall process for meetings is improved. Since all processes and data are located on the same platform, a single pane project collaboration workspace is available to all participants. This reduces and saves a significant amount of resource time and reduces potential errors by manual transferring information from system to another.
  • Configurable dashboards, scorecards and KPI indicators that manage trouble spots, critical path activities, and specific groups/suppliers, etc. are available to all participants based upon group, role, and responsibility.

Aras continues to work with OEMs and Tier One suppliers to provide product management solutions to handle the increased complexity of connected and automated vehicles. To learn more about our program management solution and see it in action, check out this demo on Aras Innovator Program Management. If you would like more information, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn and I will be happy to provide you with additional resources.