Helena Holmström Olsson is conducting her research in the research collaboration Software Center. She has been working with Volvo Cars for the last seven years and have followed their way from a traditional waterfall organization to a much more agile company. Helena will share interesting insights on the keys for a successful transition. Helena Holmström Olsson will speak on the track Scaling Agility, 3rd April.

Could you briefly describe your area of research?

My research focuses on the many new opportunities that emerge when having access to customer data and data from products in the field. With continuous collection and analysis of data, companies can build better products, learn about feature usage and improve R&D and ways-of-working. My research aims at providing guidelines and best practices for data driven development in the form of models and techniques for e.g. data collection, feature experimentation and value modelling.

Why can vehicle manufacturers that change, improve and continuously renew their processes stay competitive in the automotive market?

The automotive industry is in the midst of a transformation where the physical product is being complemented with services and where connectivity is key. Today, a large part of innovation takes place in software and the traditional hardware development cycles co-exist with more rapid software development cycles. To manage this, and to utilize the range of new opportunities that software (and data) provides is critical for staying competitive.

Is it possible to include all areas/departments/unities etc. of an OEM in agile transformation or should the focus be on software intense parts of the business?

Based on our research, we see that most companies “go agile” by having R&D teams (typically software teams) adopt agile methods. This is only the first step towards shorter development cycles and with continuous integration and continuous deployment as the next steps. The further you transition the more functions in the company you involve. However, it should be noted that agile is only a means to an end and that there still exist many situations in which less agile approaches are preferable. It all depends on the industry domain, the business model and the type of product/system you develop.

Can you give an example of a company in automotive that has succeeded in the agile conversion? Please elaborate why they have been successful in this field?

I conduct my research in a research collaboration called Software Center. In this collaboration, we have been working with Volvo Cars for the last seven years and we have followed their way from traditional and waterfall to a much more agile organization. What is key for the transition is the extensive training of staff, the emphasis on software as the enabler for new innovation and a strong interest in shortening the development time not only for the software but also for hardware parts of the car.

At VECS you will talk on Data for Effectiveness and Empowerment of Teams and one of the subjects you will cover is Why customer and product data is critical for understanding customer value. Could you briefly elaborate that statement?

In most companies, people take decisions based on opinions and experiences rather than on data. Also, people assume they know what customers want and act based on these assumptions. This leads to internal beliefs on what constitutes customer value rather than a validated understanding of customer needs. In addition, what customers ‘say’ and what customers ‘do’ is typically two very different things. Therefore, we cannot only rely on qualitative feedback such as e.g. customer surveys and interviews etc. We need quantitative data to understand what customers value and in order to get an accurate understanding of customer preferences.

Finally, what are you most looking forward to by attending and speaking at VECS 2019?

I am looking forward to the presentations, the opportunity to meet with people and for the extensive knowledge exchange that this venue allows for. And of course, I am looking forward to share insights and results from my research!