In mid-2019, Michael Simon took the reins as CIO at Volkswagen Group Retail Deutschland (VGRD). Decentralisation is the name of the game as a considerable number of acquisitions has driven the VW Group subsidiary’s growth. The new CIO, however, recognises the considerable potential of uniform Group IT as part of an IT service strategy. With Bechtle’s support, he has established a customer-centric and efficient IT service management platform for the entire corporate group.
VGRD GMBH is one of the most important players in Germany’s automotive trade industry, selling just under 200,000 new and used cars from its 100 sites every year. As full-service providers, the Group’s operative companies sell vehicles of seven group brands to private and business customers and employee some 10,000. Business activities are focused in the large German economic areas of Hamburg, Hanover, Berlin, Saxony, Frankfurt am Main, Rhine-Neckar, Stuttgart, Ulm, Augsburg and Munich. The company has consolidated the ten metropolitan regions into one large network. However, while on the one hand sales benefits from proximity to the customer and fast response times, the IT has suffered as it has become more fragmented. For the new Chief Information Officer Michael Simon, it was clear from the get-go that the key to optimally support business lies in IT from a single source. The result was the “VGRD One IT” concept that has set the goal achieving standardised IT across all companies. As easy as that sounds, it was no mean feat.
The aim of the concept is to implement a strategy that brings together all existing IT applications, services and the team of some 70 IT specialists throughout Germany. In other words, getting people on board, adapting processes and shaping the transformation with Bechtle as a partner from the very start. Bechtle Hanover has been working as a supplier and service provider for the Volkswagen subsidiary for many years, bringing with it the specialist expertise of the Bechtle Group. “With its service portfolio and as a decentralised organisation itself, Bechtle is a perfect fit for us,” says Michael Simon. A fact that was underscored during the very first phase of the ambitious IT reorganisation. All of VGRD’s IT staff were briefed on the ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) IT service policies at the Bechtle training Centre in Münster in 2019. This international standard forms the basis of a mutual understanding implementation expertise for the IT services of the future. “Up until that time, the IT departments in the various locations were organised differently and provided services in response to the demands of the respective companies, resulting in heterogeneous IT,” explains Marc Schönian, Key Account Manager, Bechtle Hanover.
It was, therefore, necessary to inventory the IT solutions leveraged across the Group for the very first time. The number of applications in use reaching three figures is testament to the continuous growth experienced by the company. Gaining an overview into the people and the processes allowed the reorganisation of the employees into one single, cross-site IT team. “We now have experts in a number of specialist areas—from IT Service Desk and IT infrastructure, communication and workplace to application and site management—supporting our in-house customers, i.e. the managers , in the various locations,” says Michael Simon, continuing “Speed is of the essence in the automotive trade sector”. IT services are and always will be shaped by the wishes and requirements of the various locations while the processes in accordance with which those services are to be provisioned will now be standardised.
VOLKSWAGEN GROUP RETAIL DEUTSCHLAND, headquartered in Wolfsburg, is the largest automotive retail group in Germany. The company is a subsidiary of Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft and currently has 174 brand representative offices. VGRD GmbH sells vehicles of the group brands Volkswagen, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, Audi, SEAT, Škoda, Porsche and Lamborghini. It also offers workshop and service support for these brands. vgrd-gruppe.de
The goal is to achieve standardised IT across the companies. As easy as that sounds, it was no mean feat.
Michael Simon, CIO Volkswagen Group Retail Deutschland (VGRD)
The tool that makes all of this possible is professional IT Service Management (ITSM). As an experienced IT manager, Michael Simon knows the world of Incident, Problem,Change and Asset Management and the various platforms that can be utilised to enable the structured recording of IT issues, new one-off or recurring requests as well as provisioning for infrastructure and solution expertise. All of this provides IT services that are easy for end users to make use of and enable IT professionals to deploy them efficiently and increasingly automatically. Sounds perfect. But only if correctly configured and implemented. “The third and final step towards realising our vision involved putting together a comprehensive requirements specification for an ITSM platform and putting the contract out to tender,” explains Michael Simon.
As an established partner, Bechtle Hanover also threw its hat into the ring with Account Manager, Marc Schönian, joining forces with his colleague from Bechtle Hanover, Tobias Stender, who heads up the Enterprise Service Management Competence Centre and whose team’s central focus is exactly what the VRGD were looking for. The Hamburg team’s concept stood head and shoulders above the rest and Bechtle was awarded the contract in the autumn of 2020.
Before the year was out and as the second coronavirus wave was taking its toll on the economy, the project team headed up by Bechtle Lead Consultant Lennard Heinrich implemented the cloud-based platform as well as the first processes. A new ticket system and Incident Management are now the pilot applications. In parallel, Bechtle trained select VGRD IT specialists on the new platform while in the showrooms, key users were familiarising themselves with the new self-service portal. Onboarding went very smoothly and it it wasn’t long before the next process could be made available on the platform. “The colleagues in the showrooms now have a simple and clear tool that continuously provides new services from the standardised IT services catalogue. Our IT Service Desk specialists are also able to work more efficiently than ever before thanks to digital workflows,” says Werner Ebner, IT Service Desk Lead and Project Lead at VGRD. For example, request templates automatically come into effect in the case of recurring issues such as resetting passwords. Context-bayed knowledge management delivers direct solution proposals and will be continuously expanded with the addition of other AI features.
Essentially, the platform consists of the cloud-based ITSM tool from Finnish provider Efecte—a tool in which the Hamburg Competence Centre specialises. Interface middleware from another Finnish company, ONEiO, serves to connect other systems and applications. Bechtle runs the whole cloud stack in a German data centre, regularly installs new releases and individual updates and ensures administrators receive round-the-clock support. VGRD therefore enjoys the ITSM tool as a fully managed service with transparent costs. “In addition to the commercial aspect of this model, this solution is ideal for our cloud-first strategy. As a decentralised company, this makes perfect sense for us,” says CIO Michael Simon.
The KPIs also clearly illustrate a successfully initiated change as ticket processing times should be reduced and user satisfaction given a boost. The services have become measurable across regions and for all companies, which is a huge step towards standardising IT for the entire group. Additionally, eleven standalone solutions have already been replaced by the ITSM platform. “We are continuing to see the effects the reorganisation has had. Users, whether they be in the back office, sales or the workshop, do however have to learn how to articulate themselves in the system. This takes both time and Change Management,” explains Michael Simon. Alongside the technology, the human factor is crucial in whether a project will succeed or fail. “Digitalisation takes place in the processes, but also in people’s minds, “ says the CIO. In both respects, he knows he can count on his IT partner. “The platform has made a very good impression, and collaboration with those involved in the project at Bechtle is always on a level playing field and characterised by agility and keeping one eye on the goal.”