Innovation and Information Technology in Formula One Racing

Williams Martini Racing

Formula One racing involves a heady mixture of speed, daring, and technology. Sensors, data, and analytics provide a backdrop for ongoing innovation and improvement, on the race track and in the office.

On this episode of CXOTalk, we speak with Graeme Hackland, Chief Information Officer of Williams Martini, one of the most respected names in racing.

Transcript

Michael:

(00:03) Did you know that auto racing is all about sensor data? Well, there’s a lot of other parts to it as well but sensor data is a very important component. And on today, on episode number 121 of CXOTalk we are talking about auto racing. We’re talking about information technology. I am Michael Krigsman, my co-host is Vala Afshar, and Vala, how are you?

Vala:

(00:31) Michael I’m doing great. I’m excited to learn from one of the top CIOs in not only racing but in the industry and also perhaps our first ultra-marathoner who’s on our show. Hello Graeme.

Graeme:

(00:46) Hi Michael, hi Vala it’s a real pleasure to be here I remember when Vivek from Tibcocalled you guys click and clack and I just thought I would say that, I love click and clack so it’s great to be here.

Michael:

(01:02) So are you a click or amI crack, how does that work?

Vala:

(02:12) Well you know, anytime an MBA owner calls us names we just except it and go on so.

Michael:

(01:19) Yes, so on that note we are joined today by Graeme Hackland, who is the Chief Information Officer for Williams Martini racing, and anybody who is involved with Formula One orauto racing in general knows that name. Graeme, give us a sense of your professional background very briefly.

Graeme:

(01:39) So I grew up in South Africa and in 1990 I saw an advert in the newspaper that said computer engineer wanted no experience necessary which was perfect because I had never touched a computer. And I went for the job and got it and from there I became a master certified Nobel engineer, can you remember those days with Nobel?

Michael:

(02:02) I do remember those days yes, Nobel was a great product.

Graeme:

(02:06) Yeah, absolutely that was my thing, and I moved to England in 1994 and travelled all over England with a reseller. 1997 I got into Formula One, so this is actually my 18th season in Formula One.

(02:20) 1997 with the Benetton team, great times, and in the year 2000 we were bought by Renault with the aim of winning the world championship in five years, which I thought was going to be really tough, right. But in 2005 and 6 which was the highlight of my career so far we did win the championships, both the drivers and instructors. Fabulous time.

(02:39) Then in 2014 I got the opportunity to join Sir Frank Williams and joined the Williams Martini racing team to be a part of this business transformation that kicked off with the sole aim of taking Williams back to the front of the grid. I thought that was really exciting, so yeah since January last year I’ve been with the team.

Vala:

(03:00) That’s awesome. Graeme tell us a little bit about Williams Martini racing, about the size of the group, the mission, and overall company profile.

Graeme:

(03:09) So Sir Frank and his partner who was one of the leading technology guys of the day recently knighted, Sir Patrick Head, set up the team in 1977, really small team but by 1980 they won their first world championship. Taking on all of these big teams with a lot more budget than they had and did an absolute fantastic job, and between then and 1997 the team won 16 world Championships; seven for drivers and nine for Williams as a constructor, so fantastic heritage Williams has in Formula One.

(03:45) Then in 2013 had a really tough year and that is when Sir Frank decided to initiate this business transformation to take the team back to the front of the grid.

Michael:

(03:54) So you’re the CIO of Williams Martini racing. What is information technology in this type of organization actually do?

Graeme:

(04:05) Yeah, we have everything most of the other CIOs who are watching this will recognize. I guess we operate across the whole lifecycle of the Formula One car. So everything from aerodynamics to design, to manufacturing to the actual engineering of the car that everybody recognizes on a race weekend when they’re watching on television

Michael:

(00:03) Did you know that auto racing is all about sensor data? Well, there’s a lot of other parts to it as well but sensor data is a very important component. And on today, on episode number 121 of CXOTalk we are talking about auto racing. We’re talking about information technology. I am Michael Krigsman, my co-host is Vala Afshar, and Vala, how are you?

Vala:

(00:31) Michael I’m doing great. I’m excited to learn from one of the top CIOs in not only racing but in the industry and also perhaps our first ultra-marathoner who’s on our show. Hello Graeme.

Graeme:

(00:46) Hi Michael, hi Vala it’s a real pleasure to be here I remember when Vivek from Tibcocalled you guys click and clack and I just thought I would say that, I love click and clack so it’s great to be here.

Michael:

(01:02) So are you a click or amI crack, how does that work?

Vala:

(02:12) Well you know, anytime an MBA owner calls us names we just except it and go on so.

Michael:

(01:19) Yes, so on that note we are joined today by Graeme Hackland, who is the Chief Information Officer for Williams Martini racing, and anybody who is involved with Formula One orauto racing in general knows that name. Graeme, give us a sense of your professional background very briefly.

Graeme:

(01:39) So I grew up in South Africa and in 1990 I saw an advert in the newspaper that said computer engineer wanted no experience necessary which was perfect because I had never touched a computer. And I went for the job and got it and from there I became a master certified Nobel engineer, can you remember those days with Nobel?

Michael:

(02:02) I do remember those days yes, Nobel was a great product.

Graeme:

(02:06) Yeah, absolutely that was my thing, and I moved to England in 1994 and travelled all over England with a reseller. 1997 I got into Formula One, so this is actually my 18th season in Formula One.

(02:20) 1997 with the Benetton team, great times, and in the year 2000 we were bought by Renault with the aim of winning the world championship in five years, which I thought was going to be really tough, right. But in 2005 and 6 which was the highlight of my career so far we did win the championships, both the drivers and instructors. Fabulous time.

(02:39) Then in 2014 I got the opportunity to join Sir Frank Williams and joined the Williams Martini racing team to be a part of this business transformation that kicked off with the sole aim of taking Williams back to the front of the grid. I thought that was really exciting, so yeah since January last year I’ve been with the team.

Vala:

(03:00) That’s awesome. Graeme tell us a little bit about Williams Martini racing, about the size of the group, the mission, and overall company profile.

Graeme:

(03:09) So Sir Frank and his partner who was one of the leading technology guys of the day recently knighted, Sir Patrick Head, set up the team in 1977, really small team but by 1980 they won their first world championship. Taking on all of these big teams with a lot more budget than they had and did an absolute fantastic job, and between then and 1997 the team won 16 world Championships; seven for drivers and nine for Williams as a constructor, so fantastic heritage Williams has in Formula One.

(03:45) Then in 2013 had a really tough year and that is when Sir Frank decided to initiate this business transformation to take the team back to the front of the grid.

Michael:

(03:54) So you’re the CIO of Williams Martini racing. What is information technology in this type of organization actually do?

Graeme:

(04:05) Yeah, we have everything most of the other CIOs who are watching this will recognize. I guess we operate across the whole lifecycle of the Formula One car. So everything from aerodynamics to design, to manufacturing to the actual engineering of the car that everybody recognizes on a race weekend when they’re watching on television, so we try and get concepts from aerodynamics and designers as quickly as we can through that electronic chain, all the way to the car.

Vala:

(04:36) And how does the business of racing make it unique for IT, can you talk a little bit about the demands on your team when every second on race day matters.

Graeme:

(04:49) And Vala that’s the key I think it’s that real time nature of what we do. It’s very public. When you have successes it’s amazing, everybody wants to talk to you. When it’s not going so well, everyone disappears and you know it’s really public. But the great thing as well is that every 19, 20 times a year every two weeks you get a chance to have another go. So if you had a bad race like we did earlier this year at Monaco, you’ve got a race coming up in the very next race after we had a tough time in Monaco we were on the podium. So you get the opportunity to turn things around very quickly. And season by season the cars are changed completely, totally redesigned.

(05:27) So we get that constant demand for innovation and that is why I think I’ve been in the industry so long. The car is changed every race, so there is an expectation, that across the whole company will have this constant innovation and change and I think that’s the thing that keeps all the IT professionals who work within Formula One so engaged.

Michael:

(05:50) We have already a question from Twitter from Joanna Young, whose a former guest on CXOTalk and is CIO I believe of the Michigan State higher education university system, who is wondering, what’s it like to get technology the kind of technology that you have to work on a race car, on this moving vehicle that’s going so quickly and with all the stresses and strains.

Graeme:

(06:18)We talk about connected cars now coming on to the streets all over the world. Formula One cars have been connected cars when I joined Formula One in 1997. They were already connected cars then. Data was being captured from the cars. So we’ve been doing this for a long time, instrumenting the car. We’ve got over 200 sensors, a 1000 channels of data, 30 to 40 people constantly reading that data over the course of the race weekend in order to firstly improve performances and secondly to make sure that we are reliable and we get to the end of the race. So yeah, it’s something that Formula One has been doing for a long time and has really been successful. We are tracked as an industry we are tracked really innovative companies and people come and work with us.

Vala:

(07:04) It seems that you’ve this combination of speed, quality, precision, and again real time analytics that has to convert to insights and rapid decisions and actions. With all these challenges, what type of skillset do you look for when you are recruiting into IT organizations? Are you looking for data scientists and folks that can you know not only maintain the infrastructure to fuel the innovation, but also help the racing team understand you know, 200 sensors, 1000 channels andall of the oceans of data that’s coming in at you.

Graeme:

(07:40) Yes so in our vehicle science group we will have data scientists and our chief strategist, who sits on the pit wall and is making those real-time calls and giving advice to the race engineers, and they have to make those decisions in a very short space of time. And when you get it wrong, like I said it’s very public. All the fans are on social media, calling you all sorts of names when they think you’ve got it wrong. So it’s a great sport, but you don’t half get hammered if you get something slightly wrong.

(08:09) Within IT, we don’t have the data scientist type skills. We rely on our partners, so we have people like BT and Avanade who partnered with us and they will bring a lot of those kindof skills to us, to augment the IT team. We’re only 20 people within IT and we need to make sure that we bring in extra resources and skills and people in.

(08:32) The kind of people that we look for in Formula One, tend not to be, we don’t tend to chase the technical skills. We need to find the right personalities and that’s always the tricky thing, right. You’ve got to find the people who can cope with these extreme demands. The guys who travel, you know we have people who travel with the race team and report all of the systems and monitor the telemetry while the car is on the track. They have to make sure that those systems are running 100% of the time that the car is on the track. And if something goes down because we’re on a race track in the middle of nowhere, poweryou know, there can be all sorts of issues. They’ve got to get everything back up and running very very quickly. So you need the right temperament and personality of person.

(09:14) And within the factory, people who can cope with those demands, the hours. Season after season, you have got to operate at your maximum, at your best level year after year after year if you want to be successful. We used to have down time during the year when I first came into Formula One, there would be dips for the design office inthe summer and there would be a dip for race engineering in the winter. That doesn’t happen anymore. People are working constantly throughout the year to improve the performance of this year’s car or next years.

(09:39) We’re already working on next year’s car. All of the teams will have next year’s car in the wind tunnel going through the design office. So there is no more dip off. So we need people who can cope and at their best for long periods of time.

Michael:

(09:51) So you’re describing some of the challenges associated with IT in the racing environment. But for you, IT is much more than infrastructure. So maybe give us some insights into the kind of scope that IT encompasses.

Graeme:

(10:13)Yeah look, the infrastructures important right, so we’re in the process of upgrading and going to the latest technology. With one of our partnerships with BT, they’re really helping us to improve the links that we have to the tracks so we can now get data that’s generated at the track back to the factory so that more engineers can work on it in real time as it’s created. We haven’t been able to do that until this year until we started working with BT. So the infrastructure is really important.

We’ve noticed that our network, some of it is hitting capacity, so we’re doing a big refresh that will go live in the middle of August and we’ll be up to modern, fast, you know great capacity and so we’ll get the infrastructure right.

(10:55) But you’re right Michael, there’s a lot more to what we do in Formula One beyond just infrastructure that people are familiar with, and especially we see a competitive advantage in some of the applications that we’re developing as an example. I think if Williams had been underpowered in any particular area in the past decade, it’s probably been in that area, where some of our bigger competitors who are outspending us to 2 to 1, they’re doing a lot more of their own development of their applications than we have been.

(11:28)So we partnered with Avanade to bring us that development capability to help us with our digital journey. We felt that the tools our engineer was using, the mobility tools that they had so that they could work wherever they were on any piece of data, safely and securely wasn’t up to scratch. So that was one of the things that we wanted to sort out pretty quickly.

(11:47)So we partnered with Avanade to bring as a whole heap of development resource that we wouldn’t have been able to provide ourselves. But skills, for example we developed a specific application for engineers this year to use at the track, around tire optimization, so a lot of data about our cars, but also the data that are provided by the tire manufacturer about all the cars. So it helps you with some predictive analytics as well, and our engineers without this work that we did with the guys from Avanade just wouldn’t have had access to that data. And we were able to be much more aggressive in the early part of this year with our strategy than we would have been able to do.

(12:24) But the thing I was most impressed with was is we used off shore resources from Avanade. So we use a team in India to develop this application for it, who had never been to a Formula One track as far as I know most of them. I went out and met them in March and spent some time with them. And they did a show in town and demonstrated the application that they developed.

(12:42)Hadn’t been to a race, you know, were not race strategists themselves and yet they absolutely produce a tool that our engineers were able to use from that first day. But Avanade were also able to provide us with UI expertise. So we didn’t just listen to what the engineers said, and this is where it can be a bit contentious. If you ask an engineer what they want, you know they will tell you down to the lowest detail, this is exactly why want, don’t do anything else. We said trust us, and we got this UIX expert to analyze how they work and then we produced a tool that he felt and we felt would be intuitive, much more intuitive for them. (13:14) Actually, our chief strategist said to me, I wasn’t sure about what the direction that you were taking, but actually I’m really pleased that I let you just you know I didn’t just try and talk you into doing it in the way we have always done it, because what you’ve produced there is much more useful than what you would have produced than if I had had put you in this box and constrained what you had in it.

Michael:

(13:33) So tell us about the data. So give us a sense of the type of data that you’re collecting from the cars, and then let’s talk about how you analyze that data and the impact of that data on during the race itself and then following the race. So let’s talk about the data.

Graeme:

(13:53) So the data, so we have about 200 sensors on the car, and that’s everything from breaks to tires, two fluid levels, fuel levels, heat, temperature in different parts of the car, engine sensors. All of which are capturing about 1000 channels of data.

(14:11) On a Friday we have two practice sessions, two 90 minute practice sessions, that’s probably where we generate probably the most data. We’ll put more sensors in so that we can take that data back into the factory, run it in a simulator, run it in our vehicle science groups and the computer power that they’ve got. Perhaps run it in the wind tunnel as well to calibrate the model. So we’ll capture a lot more data.

(14:35) At Silverstone, which was the British Grand Prix a couple of weeks ago, we generated about 20gig of data just on that Friday from the car. Over the course of a whole race weekend we’ll probably generate about 120 to 150gig of data. It depends if you get both cars to the finish, that’s one of the things that determines how much data you have, and about half of that is actually video. So we do a lot of video analysis of our cars, of our pit stops. Because in the pit stops, you can gain half a second to a second if you can improve your pit stops. So we really practice relentlessly, but we video it so we can train the guys to do a better job during the pit stop.

(15:18) So there’s the video analysis, there is all of the telemetry data that’s coming off of the car, that you’ve got about 40 people at the track analyzing, and however many engineers we can now remotely and we are starting to that group so that they can do more analysis away from the track as well. Because I think that is an advantage that some of our competitors have where we were a little constrained by the technology to be frank. We weren’t able to get the data to our engineers remotely from the track, which we can now.

Vala:

15:47) Are their sensors on the drivers as well? Or are the 200 sensors purely car source data?

Graeme:

(15:55)That’s purely the car data, and from time to time we will instrument the driver and we will be looking at heart rate and things like that. But it is an area that I think there will be  – I’m busy at the moment preparing, our IT strategy to 2020 and I’m going to present that to the board next week. And one of the areas that I think that is really of interest to us as a Formula One team is wearables.

(16:15) I think wearables for the driver, but also for our pit crew, for the engineers, and for our staff who are producing that car, designing it and race engineering it. I think we can really – and it’s not just about how, which we do take seriously and our guys are really looking after themselves in terms of diet and fitness. But there is a lot more I think we can do with wearables, you know, GPS positioning of the people during the pit stop, and also of the drivers. The driver health I think, sometimes the driver will not perform at their optimum and they won’t really understand it, and I think if we had more instrumentation on the driver, we might know that perhaps you know they have been feeling of being a bit under the weather, you know there is a bit of a bug there that you don’t know.

(16:52)They lose a couple of kilos of weight during a race just from the heat that there is in the cockpit. So they’re a big part of the package and they are part of that performance package, you know the engine, the tires, the chassis, but the driver is a big part of that performance. So I think in the future you’ll see more of that instrumenting of the driver happen.

Michael:

(17:13) So the way you’re describing it, IT is not just standing on the outside looking in at the business so to speak and in this case the business has to include, I’m assuming includes both the racing as you’re describing as well as the back office functions. But you’re actually a very significant participant in the race activities, and I’m assuming the back office activities as well.

Graeme:

(17:42)Yes so Williams as a group has four businesses and the two that we do the most work with are the Formula One side, but we also have an advanced engineering division. And what advance engineering do is they take technology know-how, the things that we know about aerodynamics, lightweight materials, energy efficiency that they apply to all sorts of other industry and all sorts of other projects that we’ve done for motorsports or OEM car manufacturers, in aerospace, in lots of different interesting industries. We did the batteries for the new electric formula that ran this year, Formula E. And I think that is also an important part of IT playing a role in helping them to take advantage of technologies.

(18:23) So as I’m looking at our strategy through 2020, some of what I’m looking at is actually where are their business opportunities for our advanced engineering group to take advantage of technology and to be a leader in some of those technologies.

(18:35) But you’re right, we have the back office function to support but we are right there within the engineering of the car. I believe there is a competitive advantage, and more importantly our Chief Technology Officer, Pat Simmons believes there is a technical advantage for all IT and I think that’s really important.

Vala:

(18:51) Graeme, I mean you’re a social CIO, I see you active on Twitter you know you have video blogs and you actually blog as well. You know, where did you get your source of innovation, you talk about building and IT roadmap that looks ahead five years and given the speed of innovation I mean it’s amazing what we can think about the possibilities five years from now. Do you independently research, do you collaborate with other peer CIOs, I’m interested to know how do you formulate this vision for such an innovative company, I mean there’s got to be tremendous amount of pressure on your shoulders to represent you know the technology vision of Williams Martini racing. So how do you do it? Give us some insights and advice to other CIOs watching.

Graeme:

(19:42) Well Vala people like you on twitter Vala you’re totally prolific right. So I remember I used to subscribe to dozens of RSS feeds right and I used to be in the tracking technology, and there’s lots of really good sources of information out there who are tracking the technology trends and who I follow.

(20:02) I’ve switched all of that to twitter now, I don’t have a single RSS feed any more. All of my information feeds now come through Twitter. But I need to name check someone, so Duncan Chapman, who I’ve worked with a lot in the past, a guy from Gartner has really helped me over the years and has helped that independent advice as well. And there are other independent analysts that I follow and look at the trends that they’re saying. You know, not everything that they predict is going to come true, but a lot of the trends that we’re seeing already around social, mobile, analytics, cloud these guys were predicting 10 years ago.

(20:37) Five years ago I remember sitting in one of the big conferences, Avanade’s conferences and thinking, wow you know is what they’re saying true? You know, are CIOs going to lose control, you know this whole idea ofthere’s a perimeter and everything’s inside the perimeter, and the CIO controls it. And they were talking about that you are going to have to give up that control – forget it. In fact, if you think you’ve got control, you’ve actually already lost it.

(21:03) So I get inspiration from those kind of people who make me think, challenge me and I bought that straightaway. I realised that you know this whole thing about bringing your own device and you know, the first person to have an iPad in those early days in the company was the CEO which happens to lots of CEOs, right. So it’s the guy at the top who and I remember the PA of the CEO phoning me up the day after the first iPad was launched and said I want one. I said well, what you going to do with it, I’m not sure but they were queueing out the door to get this iPad thing right. But I’ll definitely need one.

(21:38)So yeah, there are a lot of people that I follow and track and technology trends that I look at. Some years ago I was advised about 3-D printing that as being something that was really going to change the world. So I’ve been tracking that industry for the last three, four, five years.

(21:54) 3-D printing, what’s called 3-D printing now has been in formula One since the late 90s. I mean we’ve been 3-D printing, our wind tunnel model since the late 90s, so it’s technology that we’re really familiar with. And seeing it grow and starting to be used in all sorts of industry now, I think it’s fantastic.

(22:11)So yeah, I read as much as I can. Every day I’m looking at newsfeeds on twitter and making time – I have to make that time. I think every CIO has to carve out some time every week to be looking at the trends, what’s going on, what the commentary out there is and that tends to be how I get the guidance.

Michael:

(22:33) Okay, let’s talk about your relationship to other parts of the company. So you are very integrated with other business units and the four different businesses that Williams Martini racing operates. How are you able to make that happen and what are some of the challenges that you face as a CIO in ensuring the maintenance and maintaining that connection to the business, so that you are not on the outside looking in but that IT is part of the business.

Graeme:

(23:12) Yeah I suppose the first thing to say is we don’t have a divine right to be you know consulted on everything, right. I get to talk to a lot of CIOs and one thing I should have mentioned to Vala last time is that I joined the CIO Roundtable and was working on with a bunch of other CIOs from sports and we were collaborating together, so that was a source of information for me as well.

(23:42) Some of the people I meet are complaining that they don’t – they are looking on the outside looking in and I think we don’t have a divine right to be on the inside. We have to prove what we do is a competitive advantage in whatever our industry is.

(23:58) And you know, some people say it’s easy for you because you’re in a class of high-tech industry, actually it is really difficult in F1, because pretty much 80 to 85% of my users think that they know more than I do. And at least 50% some of them do. So there’s a challenge there that you can’t try and hide. You know, if I don’t know something I’ll tell them because they know more about it than I do.

(24:27) So I think the first thing is you’ve got to gain the credibility by just relentlessly focusing on – so there’s something in Formula One that I learned in 1997 that I shared ever since. They talk about does it make the car quicker? If it doesn’t make the car quicker, why are we doing it?

(24:48) There is also I always add a sidebar there, you need the car to be reliable as well, because I remember in 2005, Fernando Alonso who was one of our drivers back then saying, ‘anybody can make a car, a quick car for half a race. You’ve got to get to the end’.

(25:01) We talk about will make the car quicker and I know now we are seeing now some of the Olympic teams, some of the rowing teams, will it make the boat quicker, if not get rid of it. We’ve had that focus in Formula One you know from before I got there, will it make the car quicker.

(25:16) And I say to people, what is in your business, what is that ‘will it make the car quicker’, what’s your goal as a business and often CIOs have difficulty articulating that. Our job is to get stakeholder value and build profits, and that’s why the struggle to bring it back to what contribution are they making to whatever the company’s business success criteria are. I think that’s always the first place to start, what are your business success criteria, tie your IT strategy to that. Prove that that’s what you’re doing and that you are not in it for yourself and you don’t do IT project for IT sake.

(15:55) I’m not with the team for my own you know for my own reasons. I’m there because I want to see Sir Frank’s face when we win a race and when we win more races, and ultimately we win the championship. That’s why I’m there. And I think sometimes IT professionals lose sight of that. That’s what I like about Formula One and that’s why a lot of people come into Formula One to stay, is that focus. They can see a link between what they do and that end product that we see on TV is us going around the track.

(26:25) And when the car is not good that’s when it’s tough foryourself right, because we’re working the the long hours and the performance is not great. But when things are good as they have been for Williams last year we finished third in the championship, beating Ferrari which I know gave the team a lot of satisfaction. But unfortunately, they are ahead of us so far this year but we’re chasing them down.

(26:46) But there is a relentless focus on what makes the car quicker, how can we succeed as a company, in getting to the front of Formula One.

Vala:

That’s terrific.

Michael:

(26:55) So please Vala go ahead.

Vala:

(26:58) You know, I’m going to go back to the theme of collaboration. You’ve got a company that 600 employees strong, and you have an IT organisation that’s 20, so you know, less than 5% of the resources in IT, and you are doing extraordinary work with new applications, analytics, and big data, and implementing a vision to 2020. So you are obviously collaborating with partners, you mentioned BT, you mentioned Avanade, you mentioned you know working with UI/UX design experts, talk to me about you know what criteria do you look for in partners as you scale IT by being a super resourceful CIO.

Graeme:

(27:37)So I’m a little bit nervous about telling you the answer to this, because then the other CIOs in Formula One might…

Vala:

(27:46) No trade secrets!

Graeme:

(27:50) I’m joking. The partnerships are really important right. I think, a normal you know vendor supplier relationship where they sell you something, and they come back in three years and they sell you some more, or they come back in 12 months because they know you’re going to need more capacity, I don’t think that necessarily works in Formula One.

(28:07) The advantage that we get with partnering with Avanade and BT and with some of the other tech companies that we’re working with is that they buy in to our success. They want us to be successful because we are a reference. We are an extreme example of their technology services. We show the world them at their best. And there has been times where we’ve done partnerships and the world doesn’t know about it because it didn’t work out. We all tried, we all did our best, but the product, the service just didn’t work with our Formula One concept.

(28:44) So we won’t stand up and talk about it and pretend it was okay. We need our credibility first of all. And the partners know that, they know that if they want us to be that example of their technology at its best, they’ve got to deliver. And I think that enhances the IT team, you know magnificently because we’re all there focused, wanting the team to be successful. But so do they.

(29:08) We have six, seven Avanade people who work on our site every day and then we have the off-shore teams. I love being in meetings with the guys and when you’re sitting in those meetings you can’t tell who is Avanade and who is Williams.

(29:25) We talk about the race on the weekend, they’re all watching it, they all care about the results. That partnership goes beyond just a supplier who’s trying to sell you more resource down the line.

Michael:

(29:41) Yeah, I was going to say, we have a comment from Twitter from Frank Scavo, who’s a top technology industry analyst, who brings up the point about indirect value being added to make the car go faster as you were saying. And he says on this notion of relationships with your partners. For example, paying your partners on time, things as small as that will have some type of impact won’t they?

Graeme:

(30:14) What do you mean hanging your partners on time?

Michael:

(30:17) Paying your suppliers on time.

Graeme:

(30:18) Oh paying them on time got it okay. Sorry. I think that’s really important right. So Williams will not raise an order we couldn’t pay on time, that’s just you know culturally you know how we operate. Our core values are honesty, integrity, transparency and excellence and that’s the kind of company we are. So I see the point that you can improve your relationships with your supplies.

(30:44) You know, I had a supplier who I work with for many many years, who I’d phone up and say somethings broken, or we need something this afternoon because it’s all being shipped off to Canada for the race. Or today, we packed for Hungary and something’s not working and we need something. There were times where he drove down three or four hours to our factory to personally deliver it for us.

(31:07) And that wasn’t a product, that a supplier who – so you know, it can work. You can build that relationship. I used to joke with him that there was the seven year itch. I would say, we’ve been working together for seven years. You’re going to stop giving me the same attention now and he never did right. And it was a fantastic supplier relationship so it can work. And it’s a two way street, you know we were fair with them and they were fair with us.

(31:30) But I think when you bring someone into the critical part of the car like we’ve done with Avanade, you know the performance at the track relies on the solutions that they’re producing for us.

(31:44) You need people who are built into your success, because every race that we miss – so if we don’t get something to Hungary which is the next race, we’ve lost that opportunity. It doesn’t come back. You can’t delay a product launch by a week or two weeks and say there’s no impact. There’s always an impact when we don’t deliver. There’s always an impact to car performance and so we want people who care about it as much as we do. That’s what we get with these partnerships.

(32:09)The guys from BT who are currently deploying the new solutions for us are absolutely committed to us. You’ll see them tweeting about our performance at the track. They’re bought in, it’s fantastic.

Michael:

(32:21) what about this idea of risk. Where does risk come into play in the context of the race. You said you don’t want to set up a wall around using Facebook for example. But still there’s the concept of protecting the corporate assets and risk, as a CIO that has to be very important to you.

Graeme:

(32:43)Yeah, I care a lot about risk. One of the things I did coming into the Williams team was to establish a risk committee who meet regularly, who document the risks, who’ve taking accountability and responsibility for the IT risks. We’re taking a much broader view of risks than perhaps Williams did in the past. When you talk about risks everybody thinks about IT security and maybe compliance as well, but we also look at performance and availability. We look at those four areas as our risks.

(33:14)We did a partnership of a company called Dtex it was the first one that I did, and Dtex do an audit tool, but now we can tell and it’s really important, not just from a Formula One point of view, but our advanced engineering company have the intellectual property of confidential information of our customers. So we are thejointly develop IP or we use their IP to produce a product for them.

(33:39)So we have to prove to them that we are safeguarding their confidential information and intellectual property. And when we talk about data loss, I don’t like to just focus on IP. Because when you talk about IP people think of designs, drawings that you know you can physically share around. They don’t think about the confidential information around any part of our business, who our sponsors are, what the deals are like, who we’re talking to in terms of becoming technical partners with the team.

(34:07)All that information is valuable to us, and I think the other thing that we really focus on is understanding how long certain types of information have value. I think many of us treat all information the same, and it’s valuable forever and that’s not true. A Formula One car from three or four seasons ago is almost irrelevant now. The technology has changed so much in Formula One. In 2014 we brought in all the new regulations, new hybrid power units, new technology. And so the older data’s not that relevant now, but the data for our car next year, right now is our most confidential information that we should absolutely be protecting.

(34:49)So I put a lot of my focus, a lot of my time on IT risk and I believe in audit over blocking. We moved to Office 365 last year. We could have locked that down, taking all these nice features that are in it and prevented our users from using them because maybe we were going to feel less secure or that our data was going to be at risk. By putting the audit tool that we have in from Dtex, we’re able to tell where our data is at rest, in movement, being printed and our customer data, and we can protect it. So you’re right to raise it, I think it’s really important and for most of us, for most CIOs it’s really really important that we are protecting our intellectual property, the things that will make us successful.

Vala:

(35:42) Graeme, you clearly have a lot of relationship with R&D and engineering and the folks that are building and making the cars faster and better and more quality. Can you talk to us a little bit about your working relationship with the CMO and the marketing organizations within Williams racing?

Graeme:

(36:01)There’s a lot of debate going on isn’t there in our industries at the moment.

Vala:

(36:07) It is definitely.

Graeme:

(36:08)A couple of years ago, we were talking about the death of the CIO, right.You know there’s not going to be a CIO, there’s just going to be an operational guyswho’s sitting in the corner and just keep the lights on. A lot of really good and fun interesting stuff is going to happen in marketing, right. And we are talking about budget right, so there’s this whole shift of budget. Marketing is taking all of IT’s budget.

(36:36) Actually, I have a great relationship CMO, and actually I have a great relationship with Avanade’s CMO as well, Stella Goulet, who I’ve done a lot of work with this year around the partnership and the messaging of how we are digitizing our business. How we are turning our workplace into a digital workplace, and what that means for us to enable mobility and collaboration.

(37:01) I asked Avanade to focus on usability, and I’ve asked our internal teams as well, think about what it’s like for the person that you’re developing or bringing the solution to. What’s it going to be like for them to use it? And it may be that comes from some of the other big vendors who produce these huge solutions and then you need to go on a week’s training course to learn how to use it. I want things that are intuitive for our users to use, that they can pick up and use straightaway.

(37:30) When we did the Office 365 move, we did a staff survey. We asked them all, do you want formal training lessons, and they all said just give it to us, we’ll pick it up as we go along. You know, Outlook is not that difficult a tool to use. So that’s the kind of thing that we want to do. We want to produce tools and solutions that are easily usable, but we want to think about them from the user perspective, not from an IT perspective. Not from what’s easiest for us to support.

(37:58) I think I’ve been as guilty through my long career in IT, from 1990 on in doing things that were easier for us to support. If everyone has the same laptop it’s really easy for IT to support that mistake. That’s not good, that’s not good for our colleagues.

Michael:

(38:18) So you’re definitely focused from looking at technology from the user perspective. We have only a few minutes left so innovation is obviously very important to you so tell us a little bit about innovation, how you innovate and how the company thinks about innovation.

Graeme:

(38:36)They say innovate or die. Formula One, if you’re not innovating constantly through the season you will just disappear down the order. Success for a Formula One team is finishing as high as possible in the constructors championship. That brings in your income, that gives you the TV time if you’re on the podium. So being successful on the track is really important, and the only way you can do that is by constantly iterating and innovating.

(39:01) And so as a company and I think as an industry, Formula One has this ethos of constantly innovate. So there’s an expectation that whether you’re working in marketing, or your working in IT, or in other parts of the business you will innovate as well. You will constantly bring innovation to the team to help with our key business success criteria.

Vala:

(39:24) Graeme, give some advice to fellow CIO’s. How do they accelerate innovation, how do they stay relevant? What’s the one or two things that they need to constantly focus on in order to make sure that IT has a proverbial seat at the table.

Graeme:

(39:41) So one of the things I do is every day leave my desk and I go and visit someone in the company that I go and talk to them about what are their challenges, what are they working on. I don’t necessarily ask them where can IT help, I just want to understand what they’re doing and I’ll maybe be able to come up with some suggestions and areas where we can help.

(40:02)Often of course they’ll tell me that they want help and they want me to help. But I think we’ve got to get out there and my management team as well, I encourage them every single day, get out there, talk to the rest of the company, find out what their challenges are. Because I think you can lose touch with – the regulations changes every single year in Formula One. There’s this constant changing landscape of regulation and how the car has to be produced and designed, and we need to understand that if we are going to be able to produce solutions that are going to help.

(40:35)So I think it’s being in touch with the company. I’ve talked to CIOs who they feel like they’re a separate business that they could just take the IT function and it could be completely separate from the company. I feel that is a huge mistake, because then you’re just a supplier. You’re not bought in like I think we are in Formula One, IT groups in Formula One are absolutely part of the critical part of a Formula One car and I think that’s the best way to make sure that you are listening to what people are needing. And if you’re focused on that usability and giving people tools that will make their lives easier, that will get the data to them quicker, will make the car quicker then you will have a seat at the table. They will value you.

(41:22) But the only way to do that is to prove it, and one of the things that I’ve said to my management team is we need to get our own house in order. IT needs to beefficient; we need to be spending the money that we get wisely. I hate waste. We should not waste any of the money, because whatever money we can give back to the team, whatever money we can save by doing partnerships or by finding technology or someone who will give it to us a bit cheaper. Whatever money we can save, will go back to the car and will go back to more iterations, more designs, more development.

(41:55) So you really want to focus on internally, are we doing the best job, are we the best IT function that we can be. Those companies that you know shadow IT is a big problem and people are off buying their own solutions and services. Again, you don’t have the divine rights to be the IT vendor anymore as an internal function, if we are not absolutely sitting next to them, living their pain. You know, if you work to shift, all your people work to shift and go home, and they are not there when the engineer is working and struggling, and can’t get hold of you when he needs help, then you don’t deserve a place at the table.

Michael:

(42:31) Graeme, we have just two minutes left, and so very briefly you know, this relationship is a two way street and so what advice do you have to non-IT executive management in terms of creating an opportunity for IT to really shine.

Graeme:

(42:51) That’s a really good one. That’s important, give your IT a chance. You know, if you’re an IT function that is constantly being driven down on your funding levels, you’ve just got to reduce everything that you spend, it builds a trade-off. I remember Dave Aron from Gartner saying that if you can get the agreement with your company to take everything that you saved operationally on a seesaw and they gave it to you to do innovation, wouldn’t the company be better off.

(43:20) So I think I would say that to other executives within companies. Give your IT function a chance, but also it’s not all about squeezing the money and trying to get IT as cheap as possible. I think we’re through that. Innovate, give them the opportunity to innovate. Give them some headspace to innovate. If they’re constantly firefighting, if all the resources are absorbed on keeping the lights on, you’re not going to get the best out of your IT function. They care, you know they want to be part of the successful output.

Michael:

(43:51) Fantastic, Vala we’ve learned a lot about F1 racing today.

Vala:

(43:55) That was the fastest – no pun intended 45 minutes and Graeme as expected dropped a lot of incredible advice. Thank you so much Graeme, I know it’s passed 8 o’clock local time for you, so spending a Friday evening with us it was a privilege. Thank you.

Graeme:

(44:12) Thank you Vala it was a pleasure. Thank you Michael.

Michael:

(44:15) We have been talking today on episode number 121 with Graeme Hackland, who is the Chief Information Officer for Williams Martini racing. Everybody thank you for watching, please sign up for our newsletter so you can stay abreast on the latest on CXOTalk and stay connected to our guests.

Next week at this time we will be speaking with Craig Newmark, who is the founder of of Craigslist. Everybody thank you so much for watching. Vala I hope you have a great week.

Vala:

(44:49) You as well Michael, thank you, you as well Graeme.

Graeme:

Thank you.

Michael:

(44:53) Everybody, goodbye.

Avanade:                                             www.avanade.com

BT:                                                        www.bt.com

Dtex:                                                    www.dtexsystems.com

Gartner:                                               www.gartner.com      

OEM:                                                    www.automotiveoem.com

Office 365:                                           https://products.office.com/en-gb/office-365-home

Renault:                                               www.renault.com

Twitter:                                                 www.twitter.com

Williams Martini Racing:                   www.williamsf1.com