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Optimizing the engineering life cycle requires digital transformation

April 27, 2019
To cope with rising product complexity and crushing amounts of data, teams must embrace new technologies to maintain a competitive edge.

When he slid into the IT driver’s seat as CIO of Visteon in 2017, Raman Mehta’s challenge was to transform IT for the traditionally hardware-centric supplier of automotive cockpits. The company was shifting to a software-based innovator that delivers infotainment and “smart” dashboard display systems for connected, electric, and self-driving vehicles.

At the time, Visteon’s 4,000 engineers, from Chihuahua, Mexico, to Shanghai, China, were using traditional spreadsheets and homegrown systems that didn’t talk to each other. In the automotive industry, products often tend to have the same basic design, with slight variations for different models or trims. This creates a golden opportunity for reuse, but Visteon’s teams were using multiple spreadsheets for the same design and essentially duplicating efforts.

“We were losing productivity,” says Mehta. “We needed a new mindset, a new culture, and a different way of innovating. We wanted to have our engineers focused on engineering and creative tasks, not worried about managing the underlying infrastructure.”

Mehta’s team beefed up the company’s wide area network, built a cloud infrastructure, and set about capturing all engineering data, converting it into a neutral format and building one platform with common application programming interfaces across all engineering teams. Today, when Visteon engineers are managing requirements or test cases, everyone works off the same data. Executives have visibility into the entire engineering life cycle and can identify and manage projects early on that are in danger of running over budget, falling behind schedule, or that might require additional resources.

“We wanted to have our engineers focused on engineering and creative tasks, not worried about managing the underlying infrastructure.”
Raman Mehta, CIO, Visteon

The company is already seeing benefits. Visteon has been able to keep abreast of a changing product landscape that has more software components in the bill of materials. Products now have a lifespan of two-to-three years, as opposed to five-to-six years in the past. The overall quality of code, so critical in an industry where safety and security are paramount, has improved. Collaboration among teams has helped generate innovation and digital-native thinking. And Visteon has been able to “derive maximum benefit from the software skill set we have in our engineers,” says Mehta.

In today’s environment, where agile newcomers are disrupting entire industries, incumbents must transform the way they work and tap into new technologies to survive. “If you don’t know how to take advantage and be on the forefront, you’re going to fall behind your competitors,” says Jesper Christensen, director of offering management for IBM Watson Internet of Things. “You can’t keep doing development the same way you have for the last 10-to-15 years.”

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