Porsche, Becoming a Digital Sports Car Company


During a chat with Wired UK’s, Katia Moskvitch, Porsche Digital COO Stefan Zerweck discussed how the world’s biggest brands build smart, beautiful, intuitive, and memorable digital products, and how a sports car manufacturer like Porsche contributes to that discussion and why they are attending a tech festival in the Netherlands that has nothing to do with cars. Below, are Stefan Serweck’s answers to questions asked by Katia Moskvitch.

What’s Porsche’s motivation to become a digital sports car company?

Right now, the automotive industry is changing faster than ever before. During the next 5 years, there will be more change than within the last 50 years. That’s why Porsche is on a journey to fundamentally transform: From a traditional automotive company to a software-enabled automotive tech player. Porsche has three major reasons to become a digital sports car company. First of all: Digitization — shifting core processes to be available online (e.g. online vehicle configuration, online used car searches.) Second: Digitalization — to enhance and expand core processes (e.g. online sales, social configurations.) And third — Digital Transformation to create and explore new business (e.g. future mobility services or value-adding services.) The most important aspect for us at Porsche Digital is the customer, even though we are a technology-driven company. We always start with the customer experience and work backward towards the digitization, digitalization and digital transformation of our technology. Step by step, we can develop our digital activities from single features into an integrated experience.

How do you handle the two-speed world at Porsche?

The core of our company is to envision and to build great sports cars, often driven by our motorsports engagements. Therefore, our challenge is to not only build up a new digital culture but to combine it with our core values. We do this by encouraging a positive cultural clash of the two-speed worlds in order to create a tailor-made approach for digital product teams in the automotive environment. We have lots of heritage, history and legacy both in our products and in our processes and culture. That becomes a hurdle sometimes, but more often it’s a great asset which we can build upon. We combine the strength of perfection (hardware) and speed (software) in our development to create something new. The key is really to get everybody on board.

How do you put this in practice?

First of all, we create new working environments like the digital units, Porsche Digital and the Porsche Digital Lab. Besides building new, digital working environments, it’s crucial for us to overcome classic corporate restrictions and to enable efficient organizational structures and processes across all departments at Porsche.

But it is also all about the right (digital) mindset?

Absolutely. We lead our process by key questions — for example asking yourself: Is there a problem worth solving? Are we able to propose a solution that is desired? Do we believe that we’ll be able to create a viable business model? Can we build this technically? Will we be able to scale up to generate profit? The objective is to foster innovation and business model thinking, not to slow down the process with classic corporate guidelines. We don’t typically build our products for one market only, we have a global organization, active in more than 100 countries. That means no single solutions, but global usage is often required with different legal, fiscal or even product regulations.

What is your solution to master the manifold business and technical challenges?

While Porsche is extremely successful, we believe in the chances of collaborating with digital developers, startups and innovation hubs around the world. We want to join forces and enable joint working models by creating open platforms. Porsche opens up as a company to involve, collaborate with and learn from others — no matter if startup, student, individual or corporate. We always ask ourselves: How can we attract the best startups and best talent to work with us? I think: Be where the change is.

What’s the future for a digital sports car company?

We need to talk about ‘sports mobility devices’, especially in the future, rather than cars only. New mobility concepts, connectivity solutions, electrification, and many more trends and technologies coming up will create never-before-seen ecosystems for our customers and ourselves. This requires us to push the changes we just discussed and to take the chances they’ll bring.

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