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How does Electrolux create its scalable world-class IoT solutions? By bringing software to the core of the company strategy.

The rise of IoT has turned the traditional hardware company Electrolux into a global software company as well. This has required changes in the corporate structure and, for one of the biggest global appliance companies and the owner of several well-known appliance brands, such changes don’t happen overnight.

During the past ten years, Electrolux has gone through three phases of IoT. At the start, every connected appliance had an IoT solution specially tailored for it. Usually, the solutions were delivered as apps of their own and they would basically be used as a remote control.

In the second phase, Electrolux built various ecosystem apps each serving a certain type of appliance, like Electrolux’s Wellbeing appliances. Several experiences were still being developed in parallel for different product categories and business areas.

“In these phases, our IoT work didn’t scale well, a lot of similar problems were being solved in different ways, and our digital products did not always meet the expectations of our customers,” says Andreas Larsson.

Larsson is the Engineer Director of Digital Experiences at Electrolux and is responsible for the engineering solutions for all user-facing digital products, brands and business areas globally.

“Financially, it was a big decision to get started with the renewal, since we still needed to maintain all the old applications until we could replace them, and we also needed to keep releasing new appliances during the process.”

At the moment, the company is merging all of its smart home appliance applications under a single codebase and cloud implementations. By the end of the year, the global codebase will support eight apps: Electrolux, AEG and Frigidaire will have one iOS and Android application for all their appliances, and all the other brands will be combined in the +home app for iOS and Android.

Read more about Electrolux’s IoT journey from our previously released reference article Electrolux and the evolution of IoT.

Establishing a digital product organisation within Electrolux

To make their digital product development smarter and more efficient, Electrolux established a digital product organisation within the company. This required changes in organisation, processes and talent.

There are now more than 210 people developing Electrolux’s digital products, primarily in Sweden, Italy and Malaysia. The people are divided into more than 15 teams, and the user base is expected to exceed 30 million users in a few years.

“Recruiting such a large number of competent people was a challenging task, and that’s when Qvik came into the picture.”

Andreas Larsson, Engineer Director of Digital Experiences at Electrolux

Qvik has been working with Electrolux since the spring of 2021. During this time, the teams have made important decisions on technology choices and kept pace with the constantly evolving world of connected appliances and experiences.

“We develop our products in-house with the help of consultants integrated into our teams, and we are constantly looking for new talent.”

As a successful company with over 100 years of history and its own ways of working, the corporation has also had to adapt to the new agile ways of software development.

“For instance, hardware manufacturing methods don’t apply well to software development, and the budgets need to be planned differently as well.”

Biweekly release trains and clear OKRs keep things rolling

Larsson explains that Electrolux manages the complexity of its digital product development by sharing a set of principles and ceremonies for the teams. The teams work according to a set of agile methods but are not strictly committed to a single one.

“We also have some criteria for how the teams can be put together. For instance, teams can’t be scattered across more than two time zones and physical locations.”

Electrolux has found a global biweekly release train to be very useful: a release goes out at a set time every other week. If you miss the train, you must wait for the next one.

The quality of the work is expected to be production-grade when the release train starts, and there are structured quality and decision-making processes all the way to releasing the apps to app stores. The teams have now been making biweekly releases since March 2022.

“Without the rigour of the trains, someone would always have to fix just one small bug before the release, and we now have too many teams not to release the value provided by all of the others on schedule. ”

Andreas Larsson, Engineer Director of Digital Experiences at Electrolux

Electrolux’s digital product development has set clear objectives and key results and figures to keep the teams on the same page. This helps the teams measure their success and maintain the quality of the products.

“In software development, knowing exactly what is going on when something is released is a great asset. For instance, as we instantly know if the app’s login time goes from 1 to 4 seconds, we can start fixing it right away. ”

The sheer number of teams and individuals working with Electrolux’s digital products also requires a balancing act: the teams need to have autonomy in their work but, at the same time, having no overarching or shared direction will lead to too much local optimisation.

Join Qvik Sweden’s next Digital Product Meetup?

This article is based on Qvik Sweden’s Digital Product Meetup held on June 7. The DiP meetups are a place for product managers, product owners and people in product management to discuss and learn about relevant themes.

The next event will be held after the summer holidays. If you are interested in joining Qvik Sweden’s next DiP meetup, please leave us your contact details in the form below and we will send you an invitation at the end of the summer.

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