Christian Eigler is a realist. In his view, it won’t be trendy roadmaps that lay the basis for successful digitization, but standardization and harmonization. In an interview with automotiveIT, the CIO of automotive supplier Continental talks about the trend toward the “servicification” of products, the buzzword “agility” and IT as a people business. Excerpts:
Mr. Eigler, you have been the corporate CIO at Continental since January 2016. What concrete goals have you set? What requirements have you formulated for the medium term?
The IT areas of our five divisions have lived and worked under the slogan “We are one IT” for a long time. We are set up on a decentralized basis, but act as one organization. I would like to team up with my colleagues to intensify cross-division cooperation further. We want to create synergies and avoid unnecessary double work.
Your company is making more than 35 percent of its revenue with digital technologies. This percentage is expected to grow further. What does that mean for corporate IT?
I believe that classic issues such as standardization and harmonization are the basis for a successful digital transformation. I know that this doesn’t sound very sexy. That is why business analysts are happy to let these issues fall by the wayside in their trendy roadmaps and white papers. But before companies can pivot onto the track to digitization, they have to clean out the cellar. We started doing this years ago and are on the right path today.
The digital transformation is not just changing a company’s organization and processes, but its products as well. How much credit should IT claim for new “made by Continental” solutions?
IT has always accompanied the trend toward more electric and electronic systems, although at a level different from what is possible today. We see how much our expertise is in demand today when it comes to building up a huge big data application such as e-Horizon in the cloud.
So Continental is not just dependent on engineers and skilled workers but increasingly on IT experts as well?
That’s right. And like every company we have to fight hard to attract qualified candidates who can function in these specialist areas. At present, we employ 3,000 professionals in IT, but we will need more in the future. That is why Continental has established special training and continuing education programs for IT specialists and software developers so that they can analyze and create complex programming structures, without which nothing will function in the car of the future. With around 13,500 software developers worldwide, we are playing in the same league as Google or Apple.
And that will remain the case?
I am seeing a trend that is clearly moving in the direction of “servicification.” We are increasingly developing services related to products that already exist in our portfolio.
Interview by Ralf Bretting and Hilmar Dunker
The full interview with Christian Eigler was published in the December 2016 issue of automotiveIT International magazine. For a complimentary subscription, please go to: www.automotiveIT.com/subscribe.