By Mark Chillingworth
Once Autodata produced manuals for the automotive industry; in the last three years the Maidenhead based business has radically changed its business model and discovered a wide range of opportunities along the way. Neil Brooks, CTO with Autodata has been re-writing the technology manual at Autodata to enable this new direction.
Autodata is a provider of technical information to the automotive aftermarket, its team of engineers, who are all qualified automotive technicians, critically analyse and adapt technical information from over 155 vehicle manufacturers, normalising it into an Autodata standard that is well renowned and user friendly. With garages dealing with the plethora of brands and models, having a single resource for information is an efficiency benefit. Autodata originally produced paper manuals, but today is a leading provider of technical data – through APIs and online applications. Their data directs the workflow of a garage and improves efficiency and customer service.
“We are doing SaaS,” Brooks says of the software-as-a-service business that Autodata has become. As with all SaaS businesses, Autodata is seeing its customer base take control of their experience, so the CTO has to be customer centric. And it’s not just the existing customers, Autodata finds that direct to customer sales are increasing all the time and Brooks says lease car providers is a growth market.
Being a service business over a product business also means organisations need a constant ability to adapt, because customer behaviour changes alls the time.
“It has created a better understanding and has given an appreciation of what we are doing,”
On joining Autodata Brooks set about creating an Agile team and product sets. He arrived at a time when his team had undergone “an unsympathetic re-organisation” and although some use of the sprint methodology was in place, Brooks says the sprints did not have a fixed time, something he quickly rectified. Brooks also invested in training the team in Agile “to get them on the same language”. Like his Innovation Leadership Summit speaker peer Mark Holt at Trainline, Brooks empowers his team with ownership. He highlights how the training, carried out by partners Agility in Mind helped the team “discover their passion in software again”. Brooks also got the executive team to take the same training.
“It has created a better understanding and has given an appreciation of what we are doing,” Brooks says. The minimum viable product foundations of Agile have been instrumental in changing the culture of Autodata and Brooks says it gives the organisation a huge amount of confidence to see in bare bones what the final product will look like. Brooks reveals how a move in financial systems highlighted a need to improve the invoice archive of the organisation.
“People want a better business and to focus on how to get things done,” Ed Scotcher of Agility in Mind says. “Neil is here to change the way the business works.”
Brooks says the Agile behaviour is spreading across the business with all speak of projects being cast aside. “We have product streams, not projects,” he says of the focus on content, API, workshop application and subscription management.