February 17th 2022

The challenge of digital transformation.

MCI-Livetalk with Matthias Ulbrich, Vice President Information Technology - CIO, Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, Stuttgart.



Since October 2018, Mattias Ulbrich has been CIO of Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG  and has also been Spokesman of the Executive Board of Porsche Digital GmbH since April 2019.His career has taken him from studying electrical engineering at the University of Braunschweig, via roles at Hewlett-Packard, Seat and Audi, to his current position, where he is advancing the digital transformation at Porsche.

But why is a long-established automaker undergoing a transformation process towards digitization? For Ulbrich, one thing is very clear: "If you want to preserve great things, you also have to shape change." The fact that 70 percent of the Porsche Cars ever built are still driving today creates a certain responsibility to meet the requirements of emission reduction and CO2-neutral production.  It is therefore a declared goal to equip a large proportion of new Porsche cars with e-motors in the coming years.

In order to realize not only this sustainability but also the declared strategic field of digitalization by 2030, Porsche consistently uses the existing digital competencies of its employees. In the international Porsche Group with 70 companies, Porsche Digital GmbH, which was specially founded for the digital transformation, plays an important role in ensuring that Porsche remains attractive to the markets, says Mattias Ulbrich. The topic of 'change' must be integrated into an existing ecosystem, but at the same time offers the opportunity to recruit from the best in a broad international environment. Academia such as the MCI, where theoretical knowledge is directly linked to practice and experience is encouraged, provide the right environment for this: "I think you can learn better if you have practical skills.”

Above all, effective, efficiently implemented processes are necessary in order to complete the transformation process to a 'digitally enabled company'. However, Ulbrich explains that one important principle must be observed: "Don't let efficiency kill your innovation" - although it is not easy, it is important to find the right balance in order to promote efficiency while at the same time leaving time for new innovations - after all, Porsche Digital GmbH is supposed to offer this space for ideas. Mattias Ulbrich is also certain: "Transformation only works if you work together! If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."

But is the greater challenge to make technology and processes fit for the digital transformation or to communicate about it? For Ulbrich, it's evident: "Bringing about change in people is, of course, a greater challenge than getting a grip on the technology. We have goals and visions that are supposed to get people excited about it and convince them of what the future should look like. That involves far more elaborate change processes."


In any case, focusing on the right values and the corresponding openness to change within the company are crucial. It also helps to create certain freedoms for employees "so that an environment is created in which it is fun to work creatively". Of course, this also means that some of the tasks that employees have grown to love are lost, but new ones are created and supported with possibilities for gaining additional knowledge. Ultimately, it is the task of leaders to achieve a good level of acceptance so that resistance can be overcome together, says Mattias Ulbrich with conviction.

The biggest 'bottle neck' of the digital transformation - a challenge that affects all major companies in the automotive sector equally - is also currently being implemented under the leadership of Mattias Ulbrich: a rethinking of the entire IT to link many different systems and with thousands of datasets with suitable interfaces in a new IT architecture. Platform-based solutions make it possible to react more quickly from all locations and have an additional positive effect on the ability to innovate. In any case, it is essential to "combine superordinate goals into clear fields of action with clear responsibilities”.