Every year, DB Fernverkehr AG conducts its IT4U user satisfaction survey and asks its 20,000 employees how happy they are with their workplace IT systems. When the results of the latest survey were in, we saw how train drivers and on-board service staff had awarded top rankings to two specific apps: one for reporting absences from work and the other logging incidents during long-distance train journeys. We were thrilled: our development work had clearly been a success. This positive feedback confirms that the cooperation between DB Systel and DB Fernverkehr is a motor for the creation of apps that are as popular as they are innovative.
Apps that people like
What are the main factors behind the apps' success? Lukas Helling, product owner in House of Mobile's Unicorn team, says, "From the very beginning, standing teams have been a trademark of how we operate." These teams comprise a set group of employees from DB Systel and from another unit or team within the Group working on the project. DB Fernverkehr's experts have spent over five years overseeing the entire app development process, from the concept stage to the final product and then on to the different releases. This degree of focus has been a vital ingredient in the teams' success.
Thomas Luzius, head of mobile solutions at DB Fernverkehr, says, "Everyone working on these projects understands agile processes in full. This fact doubtlessly plays a major role as well. The interdisciplinary implementation experts, such as the scrum master, come from DB Systel, while the product owner is one of us. This ensures that the standing team has a good link to DB Fernverkehr. With a team like this, it doesn't take long to produce (and run) great apps with new features that make work easier for DB Fernverkehr's employees and so make for happier staff."
Dialogue: the recipe for success
"We want to maximise reusability and so become a kind of factory for the fast production of apps," says Lukas Helling. In line with this thinking, the number of House of Mobile teams has grown in the last five years: there are now ten of them, with a total of some 100 in-house employees and external experts.
The teams' efficiency is illustrated by the number of releases it handles. "One team is responsible for two apps, creating synergy effects and helping us to develop both of the apps faster," says Konrad Lorch, product owner and CIO at Fernverkehr. "This helps us to increase our output: we will be able to release several apps every quarter," he adds.
In addition, the teams make sure that synergy effects arising from the creation process are put to good use, and they deliver quality regardless of timing or budgeting issues. Thomas Luzius explains: "We make a point of ensuring that each team has all the skills it needs to create successful apps. These skills encompass everything from business engineering and development to testing and user experience. This gives teams the ability to manage difficult situations completely on their own, no matter how stressful things get."
Putting an end to paperwork
This fruitful collaboration between DB Systel and DB Fernverkehr means that staff at DB Fernverkehr employees now have all kinds of user-friendly apps at their disposal, such as the two described above.
These have put an end to the time-consuming work of filling out forms. This reduces workloads as people can do their paperwork online and use new, digital features such as verification processes and signatures.
"We use every available feedback channel to find out what our users want," says Konrad Lorch. Design thinking processes also ensure that the releases cater to users' preferences. Surveys, workshops, requirements management and the incorporation of feedback are also part of our work. These aren't one-off actions but are instead regular events during the work of developing apps at House of Mobile.
"Basically, we want to give our users access to all of the features they want," says Lorch. Thomas Luzius from DB Fernverkehr sees it the same way: "We have made it our mission to ensure our employees are happy. I’m delighted to be able to say that the projects between House of Mobile and DB Fernverkehr AG have been a fantastic example of how to work together."
Are you interested in working with House of Mobile? Do you have any questions or suggestions? Please feel free to contact us.
In 2022, we created a community that let mobile experts share information in connection with long-distance rail services. While it was initially intended to cover only this side of our business, the platform is now used by colleagues from all kinds of business units. If you are interested or have any questions about the community, please contact the organisers here.