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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.

As an example, could you give some project-level  details of how long it took to (a) identify the problem and select the solution (b) to plan and implement the solution (c) post implementation training, and so forth.

Using an agile development process, Avanade' global team was able to develop and launch the tyre optimisation app within five weeks, enabling us to use it at the first race of the F1 season in Melbourne.

The app receives data from our trackside WISDOM server, a data warehouse that integrates sensor, weather, telemetry, and other data feeds in real-time during a race. Using proprietary algorithms, the application takes raw performance data in order to isolate the impact of tyre status on performance. The application presents this analysis in the form of highly visual trend lines that drill down to performance on individual laps.

Previously, our engineers would have to review and analyse this information in static format between races. The app is an example of how our partnership with Avanade helps us to rapidly iterate and deploy new features, and is accelerating our transformation to a digital workplace.

How has this latest implementation changed the workflow and what sort of effect has it had on team culture?

Before we had the Avanade-developed application, data was generated by our cars or from our GPS or weather tracking systems during races, but not all the data could be processed and communicated fast enough for our engineers to use it in real-time at the track or at our headquarters in the UK during Grand Prix sessions. Now Avanade's tyre optimisation app helps us make informed decisions for better race performance.

The team has been excited to embrace technology changes as part of our digital transformation. For example, when we were deploying the Office 365 pilot, everyone participated and was keen to embrace the change. Our people have also embraced Avanade's onsite team embedded at Williams' headquarters in the UK, as well as the Avanade Global Delivery Network.

It is early days in the Avanade partnership, but already our employees are seeing the benefits and buying into our digital transformation. Being able to refine our race strategy based on real-time data from the tyres of our cars is a tangible example of how our digital transformation supports Williams' primary business objective to make our cars run faster. 

Did you need to change about IT focus in the team and advice would you give to other companies thinking about similar moves?

When I first joined Williams, I felt there wasn't enough focus on the end user and their experience using applications and systems. To this end, one of the first things we did was formalise our approach to IT risk, focussing on audit rather than blocking and restricting actions. We've begun removing or upgrading IT services we do not believe are fit for purpose.

Data is only as valuable as one's ability to leverage it to boost productivity, increase market share-or win a grand prix. I would encourage new companies to look at how they can make core data accessible to their employees in real-time and across devices. This is a big ask, so strategic relationships with companies like Avanade are invaluable for helping to speed the process.

Companies also need to focus on user experience. At Williams, we want to make it intuitive for our team members to gain insights from our data and applications, and Avanade has expertise in user experience (UX) that we don't have internally.

What are the next steps in your transformation path?

Partnering with Avanade will help Williams transform to a digital workplace, with our people enabled to work more collaboratively - and effectively - in a data-driven environment. Avanade is recognised as having world's-best Microsoft expertise, which gives us access to cutting-edge technologies and solutions that will increase productivity, reduce costs and speed innovation - ultimately creating a competitive advantage for Williams on the track.

Our biggest IT priorities at this time are to assist Race Engineering with their F1 strategy applications, as well as the Manufacturing and Aerodynamics departments with business process and workflow improvements. To support these priorities, we are now working with Avanade to continue to expand our use of SharePoint and Microsoft Azure, and better utilise the data generated by our F1 cars.


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