Radical transparency shows clear benefits for software development

As more technologies enter the car, development problems are more likely to arise. Radical transparency can be a welcome strategy to avoid potential pain points during the development process, learns Freddie Holmes

Development teams may need to reconsider the conventional means of creating new software-based technologies for the car of the future. So-called ‘radical transparency’ – a corporate strategy that aims to improve operational efficiency – could bring products to market faster, and with less time wasted along the way.

According to Sascha Preissler, a Senior Manager at Elektrobit, this is particularly relevant when considering the development of complex in-vehicle functions, which in modern cars depend on a growing number of sensors, actuators, internet services and various other factors. The interplay between these various elements has become increasingly important, and project managers can no longer handle this complexity by working in isolation.

Radical transparency can be a tough concept to understand, but in practice it essentially boils down to a few key elements. Key performance indicators (KPIs) are rendered obsolete, and ‘true success factors’ become the focal point. Commanding overheads are taken away, and somewhat counter-intuitively, leadership becomes ‘supportive’.

Today’s organisations are typically concentrated on efficiency and control, but in focussing so closely on this, we can actually lose the control of our projects

Today, many development teams do not operate as a ‘team’ per se, but more so as ‘highly specialised organisational units’. While this can produce good results, it is not always the ideal solution, explained Preissler in a recent Automotive World webinar. “In the automotive industry, we have to collaborate very closely with different sectors, and more and more technologies have to work together to provide results to the customer,” he said. “Today’s organisations are typically concentrated on efficiency and control, but in focussing so closely on this, we can actually lose the control of our projects.”

Generally speaking, various organisational units within a company will need to collaborate in the development of a product. These units can be process oriented – looking at anything from requirements engineering, testing, integration or development – or instead work from a technical point of view. Certain modules bring together groups of specialists as a single unit, and these groups have to work together in the build up to handing over a finished product.

However, highly specialised organised units do not scale effectively, and as Preissler puts it, trying to ramp up efficiency and control of the development process can ultimately ‘disable’ a project. “When combining all the principles around continuous improvement and cross functional working within an organisation, transparency is the most fundamental thing to have,” he said. “But in establishing radical transparency, you have to convince people to be transparent – this is not an easy job,” he added. “Trust is vital, and needs to grow both from the employee’s point of view and from project management.”

You eliminate the queues within your work; time is not lost in stopping new tasks to dig back into an existing task

In practice, then, how could radical transparency benefit a team developing autonomous driving software – is it a case of speed, or of efficiency? In this case, it would likely be a combination of both. “You have a shorter time to market and can deliver the product earlier, not because you are working faster, but because you have prioritised tasks in the proper way,” said Preissler. For example, without radical transparency, a team could launch a new project whilst the necessary experts are already bound by existing projects.

This slows the process down considerably, and as long as the functional leader is unavailable, the team cannot begin the project. Certain departments do not have access to the required feedback, for example, and it can lead to stakeholders in autonomous driving software falling behind the competition. “In terms of efficiency, there is also far less waste when introducing direct communication, because you eliminate the queues within your work; time is not lost in stopping new tasks to dig back into an existing task,” explained Preissler.

Radical transparency is a useful approach for various tiers of the automotive value chain, and as more technologies enter the car, Preissler warned that development problems are more likely to arise. Radical transparency, he concluded, can be a welcome strategy to avoid potential pain points during the development process.

“This approach can solve those problems,” he concluded – and this is particularly relevant when developing software-based technologies for the car of the future.

 

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