BMW using data to replicate its in-car experience across the business

Connecting its heterogeneous systems landscape, from mainframe to blockchain.

BMW

Image: Pablo Martinez

BMW wants to provide the same experience for customers outside the car as they get inside of it, but its main challenge, according to Rene Wies from BMW Group IT, is the global scale of the organisation, as well as all of the legacy tech it has accrued over the years.

"We want to make sure that our customers have a unique experience with the brand. The pleasure behind the steering wheel is perfect, I'd like to say, but we want to take the same experience, the perfection, the joy of driving, from behind the steering wheel to outside the car," Wies said, speaking at Dreamforce 2019 in San Francisco.

"The experience of our customers should be outside the car just as joyful and as dynamic and emotional"

In order to do that, Wies said BMW has to link up all of its many customer touch points.

According to Wies, the customer journey starts with an "anonymous potential interest".

"Maybe somebody who configures the car on the internet, goes to the dealer for a test drive, gets an offer, thinks about it, gets another offer, etc, and then, well, maybe buys it … but then it goes on to service and repair and so forth," he detailed.

"That kind of experience -- it's got to be seamless, it's got to be perfect for our customers, and for that point, we need to link up all the systems, all the data, and that's where the whole journey needs to be interconnected."

Making the dream of linking its data difficult, Wies said, was figuring out how to make all of its moving parts talk.

"The challenge -- I'd like to say the vehicle, a premium car like a BMW -- is probably the most sophisticated piece of work that a private person is allowed to operate in a public space. You wouldn't find any product that has the same complexity or the same sophistication," he said.

"If you look at the product, the vehicle, and then you look around [at] the ecosystem that goes along with that … service and repair, maintenance, but also the configuration, remote software update, etc … it shows how many touch points you need to connect."

BMW has a presence in around 150 countries, with Wies saying each market has developed its own way of operating over the years.

"We have a pretty heterogeneous system landscape, anything you can imagine. I'd like to say from mainframe to blockchain -- you have to integrate everything -- and it's not just the geographical coverage, but it's also the history, they have 100 years … and that hundred years has brought a lot of a lot of legacy," he said.

"Geographical scope, history of the systems, and the customer journey -- that's a lot of complexity you have to cope with."

BMW turned to Salesforce-owned Mulesoft for help with interconnecting its systems, which means the company is using APIs to pull data from all parts of its global operation.

"We've got a clear strategy: Cloud first, API first," he said. "But then you've got to implement that."

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