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11Th May 2021

Managing production agilely is a major challenge; you must proceed via subtasks

Agile management and flexible project management is trendy. But can it also be applied in a car factory? We spoke with Project Manager Lenka Profousová, who headed the Connected Car project, integrating information technology into vehicles, in ŠKODA AUTO, about how agility is faring in the largest company in the Czech Republic.

What can be managed agilely in a company such as ŠKODA AUTO?

Definitely also IT, which is my domain. We approach almost all projects in this way. But we’re also managing to integrate an agile approach into other departments, for example technical development. A more complex situation arises in the area of production.


It’s connected with fixed deadlines. However, in agile management, strict plans do not apply. To manage production agilely is a major challenge, which is why initially you have to set at least small goals in individual parts of the delivery, so that you don’t get burned immediately.

The size of the company must also play a role. After all, agile management is more typical for smaller projects.

You’re right. For me, agility in large companies is a relatively controversial issue. This type of management works excellently in small teams that have a clearly identifiable product. In the case of more complex projects, such as for example ŠKODA Connected Car, agile methods can be used for so-called sub-deliveries – parts of the delivery – but not for the project as a whole.


What‘s ŠKODA Connected Car?

The project deals with the integration of various IT services into the car. For example, it includes the remote access function, where the condition of the car can be checked using a smartphone, or so-called proactive service – in the event of a defect or minor accident, the vehicle automatically contacts the service centre.

Connected Car belongs among the main projects that Lenka Profousová participated in as Project Manager.

Connected Car belongs among the main projects that Lenka Profousová participated in as Project Manager.

What does this sub-delivery principle look line in practice?

Within the scope of the Connected Car project, the vehicle is interconnected with various information technologies. It‘s a very specific act, because it involves various departments – IT, technical development and production. For example, a sub-delivery can be a mobile application for parking; such a subtask is fulfilled completely agilely. However, the project as a whole is managed traditionally – using the so-called waterfall model, where deadlines must be strictly adhered to. And that doesn’t go together with the flexible environment of agile management.

Agile management is also characterised by frequent personal meetings, where the team evaluates the ongoing status of the project. Has the pandemic affected your projects?

Definitely. Since spring, we’ve been working mostly via home office. However, our work hasn’t stopped, and we‘ve realised every delivery on time. The entire situation has certainly been a major challenge. All ceremonies and regular meetings had to be transferred into the virtual environment. We managed it very well, and I must say that I actually find a meeting involving a hundred people much more efficient when it’s held online.

How did you proceed when a new application had to be tested directly in the vehicle, for example? That must be difficult to do remotely.

Quite the opposite! We all met on Skype; one person was physically in the car with a camera, and the rest of the team watched everything remotely. When a problem appeared, we immediately came up with a solution.


What’s agile management?

Traditional project management – the so-called waterfall model – relies on a precise definition of the resulting product. An agile approach is much more flexible in terms of reactions to changes. The exact plans aren’t fixed. There are two methods in agile management – Scrum and Kanban. The latter method is the one that’s most frequently used in ŠKODA AUTO.

Whoever wants to manage projects must have the right commitment, and must be able to accept responsibility. What are the other qualities of a proper project manager?

They should enjoy communicating with people, and be able to prioritise tasks and quickly find the core of problems. One more thing is important – wanting to learn. I perceive curiosity as a basic prerequisite for every job well done. After all, you‘ll acquire knowledge naturally in the team, but like my colleagues always said to me, it’s about your personality.

Is it also necessary to have knowledge of the field that the project relates to? For example information technology?

There are two types of managers. The first group is formed by people who focus on details, and truly understand their delivery. But when they work on a larger project, they burn out on micromanagement. Then there are those who excel in organisational skills, and can organise their team well without having a deep knowledge of the given field. For example, it applies that when you manage IT projects, it’s not so important to know information technology down to the last detail.

But will your team not respect you more if you know the given area?

That’s possible, but I still believe that strong organisational skills are what’s most important; the project topic is only secondary. It always depends primarily on the project manager’s character, charisma and leadership skills.

According to information from the Evropa v datech [Europe in Data] project, it’s mainly men who study in universities that focus on information technology. They make up as much as 85% of the students. Do women also have their place in IT?

Definitely! Women are very emphatic, and perceive the dynamics within the team well. Such qualities bring a completely different atmosphere to an enviroment dominated by technically-oriented people.

How did you manage to fit into a men’s team?

I got used to it quite quickly. After all, I studied in the Faculty of Informatics and Statistics at the Prague University of Economics and Business, where there were six hundred boys and twenty girls in my year. In my opinion, you should not enter such a team in the style of “look everyone, here I am“, but rather with humility and patience. I work with much older men, and I found that I needed to strictly set the rules of the game and create boundaries right at the start. But that applies for every job.

You have a number of interesting projects behind you – for example, the delivery of connectivity for the ENYAQ electric model. What about other plans?

At the moment, I’ve one more interesting project lined up. A baby. But I still want to devote myself to project management after that. We’re even already talking in the company about part-time employment and a few hours‘collaboration a week, if I wanted to rejoin within a year. Anyway: now is the time to switch off, spend time with the family, and then return to work. I’m already really looking forward to both!

Lenka Profousová

Lenka Profousová

Project Manager

“I can establish good relationships in the team. And that’s what I’m most proud of.“ Lenka Profousová graduated from the Faculty of Informatics and Statistics at the Prague University of Economics and Business (VŠE). During her studies, she worked as a business analyst, but after that her steps were aimed at the area of project management. “I’m afraid of routine. Fortunately, I don’t experience this stereotype at all in my job – not only thanks to the fact that I come into contact with various professions and people, but also because the project topics are varied.“ In Škoda, Lenka devoted herself primarily to the Connected Car project, which integrates information technologies into automobiles. “I’m most proud of the supply of a backend for the electric ŠKODA ENYAQ, which I dealt with until the end of February. I’m always extremely happy when we manage to establish an effective form of collaboration, and also create good, friendly relationships. That’s the key to the success of every project,“ she adds. New tasks are currently awaiting Lenka in the area of IT operations; namely setting up productivization, and the challenge of how to best work with agile development after completing projects.

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