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VW will use IT to improve cooperation between its various brands (Photo: VW)

Volkswagen has launched a new company-wide IT academy in a move to give greater in-house prominence to the role of information technology in meeting its corporate goals.

"IT is the nerve center of our company," said VW personnel chief Horst Neumann. "Superbly qualified IT staff are therefore a precondition for doing business in an efficient, competitive and customer-oriented manner."

VW's new academy comes amid expectations that shortages of qualified engineers with IT skills will increase in coming years, both in Germany and in other western markets. For that reason, many companies have startedinitiatives to attract and retain electronics and software experts.

VW also wants IT to generate further operational improvements across all of the group's divisions. The academy "will help us make major progress in standardizing our IT and systems solutions throughout the group," said VW Group CIO Martin Hofmann.

In addition, the company is looking for more cooperation across VW's various car brands. Speaking at the annual VW IT Symposium in Wolfsburg, where the academy was launched, Neumann said: "This symposium marks the start of a stronger IT cooperation within the Volkswagen family."

Two of VW's divisions participated in the symposium: premiumcar maker Audi and Volkswagen Financial Services. Both will also be part of the academy.

The new institute will provide opportunities for staff to get additional IT training and to share experiences and best practice from all parts of the group. Independent software makers will also offer training.

The VW Group spent 1.8 billion euros on IT last year. The division employs 5,800 people directly, but also buys in the services of almost 10,000 additional staff. The carmaker plans to high more IT engineers and is considering bringing more outsourced services in-house in the future.

VW is in the process of providing intranet access and an e-mail account for each of its roughly 500,000 employees. The company's IT division wants to connect these workers internally and externally with more than 230,000 staff at suppliers and around 320,000 at dealers.

VW says its IT operations process 6 million e-mails a day. The company's new data center at its Wolfsburg headquarters processes as many as 24.3 billion calculations a second. That's equal to one-fifth of the entire group's computing power.

-By Arjen Bongard