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Digital transformation in industry: F1 Williams, Avanade case study

AvantiKumar | May 20, 2015
Interviews: Computerworld asked Formula 1 team Williams Martini Racing's Graeme Hackland and Avanade Malaysia's Subra Suppiah to share their insights into an ongoing five-year digital transformation programme.

Signs of Digital transformation are increasing in various industries: in December 2014, Formula 1 Williams martini Racing announced a new multi-year technology partnership agreement and sponsorship with business technology, cloud and managed services provider Avanade.

Earlier in 2014, the Williams Group created a new role for Graeme Hackland, who then joined the UK-based group's F1 and advanced engineering divisions to drive all IT projects under a five-year digital transformation umbrella.

Computerworld Malaysia asked him, during a visit earlier this year to Southeast Asia, including Malaysia, and then with Avanade Malaysia's country manager Subra Suppiah for their views of the latest step on the Williams transformation journey as well as the use of cloud, innovation and digital to achieve business goals.

Graeme Hackland - portrait

Photo - Graeme Hackland, IT director at Williams Martini Racing F1 Team


Could you talk about some of background story that led up to choosing to work with Avanade for your transformation strategy?

In the highly competitive Formula One (F1) industry, it's essential that Williams is constantly at the forefront of technology. To speed up our digital transformation, we embarked on a multi-year technology partnership with Avanade in January this year.

At the outset, we identified 50+ projects, with three immediate priorities: improve internal collaboration, enhance our engagement with fans, and speed access to data. 

In a matter of weeks, Avanade deployed our first SharePoint site, followed by a new Williams Martini Racing web presence on Sitecore with Microsoft Azure, helping us to enhance our digital capabilities internally and our engagement with fans externally. At the first race of the F1 season in Melbourne, we were also able to start using an Avanade-developed app that gives our engineers real-time access to data from the tyres of our cars, so they can make decisions on strategy during a race.

Avanade and Williams also share a commitment to technology innovation, gender diversity and the study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in schools, and we will be looking to work together in these areas.

When I joined Williams at the start of 2014, I was asked by the management team to take the lead on a five-year IT transformation strategy, but I pushed for a rolling three-year plan. I wanted to make sure that we continually assess our IT strategy and take advantage of new and disruptive technologies without feeling tied into a five-year plan.

Since then, with my new IT management group, we've made a number of changes to IT to make it more customer-focused. We also brought in new technology to improve the user experience across different devices, but I knew from my previous experience that we would need a technology services partner to help us realise results from our transformation at the speed required in today's digital world.

Choosing which initiatives and projects to pursue, can be relatively simple in F1 terms - what will improve performance of the car within one season. For the Williams Advanced Engineering division, winning and retaining customers is the key focus. Cost reduction and employee productivity are also valid reasons for initiating a project. Post go-live, we will review if the business benefits were met.

What kind of specific business benefits are you hoping to achieve from this latest move?

Williams expects to achieve savings of up to 50 percent on our new website, by leveraging Microsoft Azure with flexible provisioning for peak loads. Our internal digital design team can leverage Avanade and Sitecore expertise to provide a modern website across multiple form factors.

Analysis of the employee productivity savings which come from utilising SharePoint for our business workflows is still in process, but Williams expects in some areas to achieve many hours per week per affected employee.

For the F1 strategy applications, there will be the dual benefit of employee productivity gains - which can be put to making the car quicker - and analysing data, which was not available to race engineers prior to Avanade's partnership. The F1 car's performance race by race through 2015 and beyond will be proof of our success.


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