Racing team turns to cloud services for speed and agility on and off the track
By Enterprise Team on August 29, 2016
Filed under Discrete Manufacturing
Lotus F1 Team is all about efficiency for both its race cars and its internal operations. The organization adopted the Microsoft Office 365 suite of productivity tools to improve its communications and collaboration capabilities, even during the critical seconds of a race. Employees and IT staff now spend less time dealing with technology, which leaves them available to focus on how to trim seconds off every lap around the track.
“We will be using Office 365 far more to expand our communications and collaboration capabilities and to find new ways to shave inefficiencies.”
Thomas Mayer, Chief Operating Officer, Lotus F1 Team
“With Office 365, technology doesn’t hinder our employees and their work anymore.”
Thomas Mayer, Chief Operating Officer, Lotus F1 Team
The need for speed
Formula 1 racing brings to mind images of fast cars battling through the streets of far-flung cities, the frenzy of pit stops, and the glory of the winner’s circle. But getting to that circle starts with technology.
More than 20 percent of the Lotus F1 Team workforce is highly mobile—either racing, testing, and designing cars or managing team logistics and operations. “Formula 1 is all about speed, agility, and performance improvements,” says Thomas Mayer, Chief Operating Officer for Lotus F1 Team. “Mobility is a key aspect for us. It’s in the DNA of the team, because we travel for every race. If our technologies aren’t mobile and don’t support mobility, they’re of no use to us. Ultimately, we want to boost our people’s efficiency so they have more time to make our cars the fastest on the course.”
In the performance-driven racing culture, the goal is to shed weight and make both the car and the team as nimble as possible. “We have a dispersed organization, with up to 100 employees who travel to 20 races in 20 different countries,” continues Mayer. “We wanted to enable employees to use any device to access all the information they need, securely, from anywhere in the world. To do this, we moved our data to the Microsoft cloud.”
In 2014, Lotus F1 Team opted to migrate its on-premises productivity environment to Microsoft Office 365, a suite of cloud-based tools. “For a lean IT team like ours, maintaining our previous environment was too resource intensive,” says Mayer. “So we took the logical step of moving to Office 365.”
Mayer and his staff migrated the team to Office 365 for email and messaging, giving employees quick access to email and calendars. It took only a week to get approximately 500 staff up and running on the new solution, including time to ensure proper authentication with Microsoft Active Directory Domain Services using the password hash synchronization feature in Microsoft Azure Active Directory.
Everyone in the organization also now uses a combination of Skype for Business Online and Microsoft Lync for presence-based reporting, instant messaging, and a growing number of video calls, even from mobile devices. “Having the ability to connect with colleagues from mobile devices makes a huge difference for our employees,” says Mayer. “A single click allows them to join a meeting without requiring a conference bridge, a participant code, or passcodes. It effectively opens up a whole new way for people to communicate.” The team has already begun a pilot implementation of enterprise voice functionality, with the vision of removing employee desk phones altogether for convenience and to cut costs.
For Lotus F1 Team, real-time communications are a necessity—and the team now has improved capabilities in that arena, thanks to its move to the cloud. For example, the group that manages a car’s engine during a race uses Office 365 to communicate with the team member who fuels the car at the end of each run. “All the noise during a race used to interfere with communications and cause problems, but now our engineers send instant messages with the proper fuel amounts, and our fuel person confirms those numbers,” says Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director for Lotus F1 Team. “We’ve had no trouble since we started using Office 365 for real-time race communications.”
The team also uses Office 365 during race preparations. “If our engineers find a problem with the car, they can grab a tablet and immediately launch a video call to show their colleagues at the factory the problematic part, even using an endoscope to deliver visual details,” says Mayer. “With so much going on at the factory and the race site, having an instant way to demonstrate problems simplifies issue resolution.”
Now that they use Office 365, Lotus F1 Team employees no longer worry about email storage limits and data accessibility. “Previously we all spent a lot of time prioritizing and deleting emails to get under our one-gigabyte limit,” says Mayer. “It’s much easier now that employees have enough mailbox capacity to retain the information that’s important to them, which makes them happy. Plus everything they need is fully accessible no matter where they are. With Office 365, technology doesn’t hinder our employees and their work anymore.”
This convenience extends to the organization’s IT staff, who now have far more time to devote to other projects because so much system administration is handled in the cloud. “We used to spend hours each week on email-related management, but now we spend 30 minutes at most,” says Dave Cadywould, IT Operations Manager for Lotus F1 Team. “We use the latest administration tool from Office 365 to log on and see the real-time health status of the service, even from our mobile devices.”
A bright future
Lotus F1 Team has completed only the first lap of its Office 365 adoption and expects to take advantage of additional features to gain even more value from the solution. For example, the team plans to roll out Microsoft OneDrive for Business for cloud-based document storage, automate workflow processes through custom apps and add-ins using new Office 365 extensibility options, and explore Microsoft Power BI to visualize the technical data that streams from 200 channels on each race car. “We will be using Office 365 far more to expand our communications and collaboration capabilities and to find new ways to shave inefficiencies,” says Mayer. “We’re in for a fun ride with Office 365.”