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Jaguar CIO: Updating Legacy Tech Is My Number One Priority

Sam Pudwell joined Silicon UK as a reporter in December 2016. As well as being the resident Cloud aficionado, he covers areas such as cyber security, government IT and sports technology, with the aim of going to as many events as possible.

Jaguar CIO outlines digital transformation plan with focus on infrastructure modernisation

There is a huge amount of change taking place across the automotive industry and the moment and British car-maker Jaguar Land Rover is no exception.

Speaking at Dell EMC World 2017 in Las Vegas this week, CIO Simon Bolton outlined his digital transformation plans and the company’s key priorities as it looks to keep pace in a world becoming increasingly dependant on software.

“Being CIO in an automotive company at the moment is a fascinating place to be,” he said. “There is so much change going on in the industry and it’s all being driven by technology. Technology is becoming core to our business in a way that hasn’t happened in the last 20 years.”

Jaguar

All change

There are a number of factors contributing to the changes currently sweeping the automotive industry, Bolton explained.

First we have the ongoing move away from the internal combustion engine to a preference for electric cars, driven by a combination of government legislation and changing consumer behaviours.

Then there is the much-documented rise of autonomous driving, which is “starting to develop into a mainstream product. Most of the automotive manufacturers have got some level of automation in cars today, but certainly by 2020 and 2021 we would expect to see significant autonomous capabilities in cars moving forward towards 2025.”

And finally the connected car, which uses sensors to collect data such as real-time traffic information to benefit the driver, and maintenance data to enable manufacturers to monitor and predict if and when things go wrong.

All of these factors mean Jaguar is having to re-imagine itself, moving from a traditional mechanical engineering company to being more software-focused.

“We make parts, very physical parts, but increasingly that physical products is becoming a digital product. Today a Range Rover has something like 20 million lines of code in it. It’s a complex software product and that’s a competency that we’re having to create in the company.”

Need for speed

At the top of Bolton’s priority list is updating the surprising amount of legacy software still being used within the organisation, with several data centre transformation initiatives already underway.

“We’ve got a huge amount of legacy technology in our infrastructure,” he explained. “When I first joined the company I did a tour of our data centres and I found computer systems that were 20, 25 years old, in technology terms 3 or 4 generations old.

“And if we’re going to move at the pace that we need to, we need to transform that technology into something that’s modern, fit for purpose and allows us to operate in a more agile way because our customers are expecting us to change really quickly and if we’re still running all of those legacy applications that we’ve been running for the last 20 years, we simply won’t be able to move as quickly as we need to.”

Despite being outdated, Bolton explained that the infrastructure is also incredibly complex and that being able to simplify that IT estate will be “core” to Jaguar’s success in the future.

And, as he alludes to, it’s all about speed. Modernising this infrastructure will enable the company to innovate faster and bring new products to market quicker than ever before, as well as reducing costs that can instead be spent on customer-facing capabilities.

So, it’s certainly all change for Jaguar Land Rover. The company was at Dell EMC World to promote the Jaguar iPace, its first fully electric car that was launched towards the end of last year using virtual reality on Dell EMC infrastructure.

It’s innovations like this that will be required for Jaguar to stay competitive in the future and, luckily for Jaguar fans, the company seems ready to embrace today’s digital revolution.

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