Last week, I had the privilege of keynoting the Agile for Automotive 2020 conference in Redwood Shores. Please let me know if you would like me to share my slides.
I attended almost all the sessions and was able to speak with many of the attendees and exhibitors.
I wanted to share my top 6 take-aways:
1. Agile is still nascent and with few exceptions, not accepted within automotive. The industry mindset is still on 'software as a part,' which should be finished and have pre-defined attributes. Organizational support beyond this mindset is scattered and minimal. I shared many of the quotes that I've heard in the industry of agile-haters, and got lots of nods and smiles. Probably too many.
2. Volvo (car/Geely part) is the leader in becoming agile in the industry. They're pushing hard, though are in the middle, and as one of my business school professors said, "Everything looks like a failure in middle." I hope they persist.
3. Tesla's software prowess is ignored by major OEMs. This is somewhat shocking to me considering their recent market cap rise. They are incredibly mis-understood, especially on the product side by their competitors, especially on the software experience they have. In silicon valley, we have an expression, "First they ignore you. Then they try to copy you. Then they lose." Feels like middle-innings here for lots of OEMs.
4. The tools and ecosystem are still lacking. StackOverflow displayed a compelling, but generic tool. I was surprised that there weren't more OEM/automotive focused solutions, as there are in strict waterfall methodology. Feels like an opportunity for someone to pick up.
5. Agile is not an industry priority. Most attendees are still mid-level. Though, almost every other major priority (connectivity, autonomy, improved safety, sharing) is incredibly software-based, somehow, the lack of software expertise is not yet a high-level industry concern. It's viewed similarly to, "making our interior better," and had a large view that 1 or 2 suppliers would just solve it. Good luck with that.
6. Software is viewed as an inconvenience by most people in the industry. Everyone was aware of Volkswagen's recent struggles with their ID. This was viewed as a failure from the software group within VW, and not as some sort of wider critique on how the car is made. The basic view was, "They should get better people." The academic/industrial/experience that software problems always happen with linear/waterfall development was entirely ignored vs. the simpler story of a group performance problem. Good luck with that too.
Overall, I came away realizing the opportunity is bigger than ever to bring great software to automotive, and the established players do not yet view their, 'lunch as being eaten' like the pre-iPhone phone OEMs, even though Tesla is surging.
Any bets on how this plays out differently from the great phone OEMs of the early 2000s: Nokia, RIM, Ericsson....