How agile software is helping Williams fulfil their need for speed

Seattle-based Avanade has been partnering with the Williams Martini Racing team since January 2015 in a three-year partnership focused on helping the team transform and perform better by leveraging digital technologies.

Managing editor Branko Miletic spoke to Chris Miller, Avanade CTIO and Graeme Hackland, Williams Martini Racing IT Director for an insight into how IT is helping the F1 racing team stay at the front of the grid.

“One example is how with the use of an agile software development process, Avanade developed a solution to automate Williams’ wind tunnel tests in just three months,” said Avanade’s Miller.

“Previously, these tests were preceded by time-consuming checks to ensure expensive prototypes would not damage or be damaged by the even more expensive testing facility.”

“Avanade’s solution automates the process of analysing and running quality checks on service requests from aerodynamicists, ensuring that the combinations of prototype designs and requested wind tunnel simulations can be performed safely.”

“Avanade also built a portal for the process that streamlines and speeds communications workflows, which the Williams team estimates will save approximately 300 personnel hours per year,” he noted.

Williams Martini Racing’s primary business goal is to perform better on and off the track. Formula One is arguably the most highly regulated, technology-dependent motorsport in the world and digital technologies provide an exciting opportunity for the team to drive new innovations and operate more effectively. “Over the course of the partnership,” said Miller, “Williams Martini Racing has had three top priorities: improving internal collaboration; enhancing fan engagement; and speeding access to data.”

“Together with Graeme and the Williams team, we have so far identified 50 projects to address these priorities.”

“This includes helping Williams to digitise workflows across its organisation by implementing SharePoint Online for improved information-sharing, and migrating the team to Office 365 and Microsoft Lync to improve internal collaboration.”

“In the highly competitive Formula One industry, it’s essential that Williams is constantly at the forefront of technology innovation,” said Graeme Hackland of Williams Martini Racing. “We have been working with Avanade to build a digital workplace to empower our team with a more social, mobile, always-on and data-driven environment,” said Hackland.

“Aside from the wind tunnel testing solution, another Avanade-developed app is giving our engineers real-time access to data from the tyres of our cars, so they can make decisions on strategy during a race – rather than after the event, as was the case previously.”

“However, we are not only seeing value from digital internally – demand is coming from across the business and Avanade is helping us meet that demand in an agile way.”

“For example,” said Hackland, “In a matter of weeks, Avanade deployed a new Williams Martini Racing web presence on Sitecore with Microsoft Azure, which is enabling us to engage better with our fans. The Microsoft Azure platform also allows flexible provisioning for peak loads, which we expect will achieve cost savings of up to 50 per cent.”

According to Hackland, via the use of an agile development process, Avanade’s global team was able to develop and help us launch the tyre optimisation app within five weeks.

“The tyre optimisation app allows us to instantly capture and process information from our trackside WISDOM server, a data warehouse that integrates sensor, weather, telemetry, and other real-time feeds. Using proprietary algorithms, the application takes raw 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 can be clicked on, enabling the operator to drill down to analyse performance lap-by-lap.”

“Before we had the Avanade-developed application,” said Hackland, “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.”

“Ultimately, the team is now able to make fully informed decisions on tyre strategy during a race, which directly impacts our performance on the track.” Working at the speed of F1 has also helped Avanade to be more effective in delivering agile cloud and digital innovation to our enterprise clients, according to Miller.

“Avanade also built a portal for the process that streamlines and speeds communications workflows, which the Williams team estimates will save approximately 300 personnel hours per year,”

“At the core of our work with Williams Martini Racing is digital business transformation, and that is really what translates into value for our enterprise clients.” However it’s not just the glamorous world of motor racing where agile software solutions are finding a niche.

“Like our partnership with Williams Martini Racing, Avanade is working with companies across all major industries to help them transform to a digital workplace,” said Miller.

“The advanced analytics we are working with the Williams F1 team on are also similarly a digital workplace priority for our enterprise clients in mining.”

“A great example in the mining industry here in Australia is our work with Rio Tinto, where we are migrating the company’s information systems and technology platforms to a cloud-based “as-a-service” solution delivery model.”

“Aside from helping Rio Tinto operate more efficiently, migrating to a cloud delivery model will free the company’s internal IT resources to focus on innovation and value-added tasks instead of the modernisation and maintenance of systems.”

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