Just over 50 years ago, Bruce McLaren and his newly formed racing team set out to design and build Formula F1 racing cars that would bear the McLaren name. Armed with an immense passion for racing and a willingness to push the boundaries, the McLaren team work tirelessly to perfect their racing ability and dominate the sport. With 20 World Championships and 182 Grand Prix victories, the McLaren name is synonymous with the winning spirit of auto racing.
Today, McLaren’s success extends far beyond the race track. Leveraging the same sensor technology that powers their race performance, McLaren is using predictive analytics and biometric data to drive game-changing innovations across other industries.
I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Edward Green, Principal Digital Architect of The McLaren Group, to discuss McLaren’s digital transformation journey and what they learned along the way.
When did you realize that digital transformation was no longer an option for McLaren? What was the driving factor?
Digital transformation has been a natural part of our business for over 30 years, and as such has become part of our core DNA. From the early days in F1, we have always sought to find a competitive edge, capturing, analyzing and presenting data to find marginal gains on track. Transforming what we do has to have a direct correlation to on-track performance.
Off track we have simulated, modeled, and predicted data, not only in F1, but across industries. We then applied this learning to other sectors including healthcare and public transportation.
Across the rest of the business groups we must react to the pace of change and the level of customer demand. Hiring staff and developing talent has put pressure on our systems and tools. As such, transforming the way we do business is critical to ensuring we can sustain a pace of growth and satisfy demand.
Operational technology and processes are often looked at first as a way to make efficiency savings, which mean we can operate in a more agile and responsive manner to our business requests.
What were the biggest obstacles you encountered as you began your own digital transformation? How did you overcome those obstacles?
Our legacy is growing and will continue to do so. It is hard to find the time in a busy technical landscape to migrate legacy systems used by few users. In some cases, those users are historic racing cars, which we need specialized dedicated hardware to keep running for classic and heritage display events.
This continues inside the enterprise as more and more applications are bespoke and custom in-house developments by software teams are made. We are looking to take API driven approaches across systems in places where we can make use of common systems at a group level. Rather than replacing, we will look to renovate and create digital foundations which we can then build upon.
Building relationships with end user communities through direct technical peering, or leveraging our partner community of experts, enables us to talk the same language as our diverse user communities. In addition, we have made investments in our technical estate with Dell and our VXFlex environment, allowing us to create a digital platform, which can provide cloud-like services for users, whilst harnessing performance and providing low latency for on premise systems.
One of the biggest obstacles continues to be cybersecurity, which can often seem to slow down transformation. We have partnered and bolstered internal capabilities. Our logs and cloud infrastructure are analyzed by our partners at SecureWorks, whilst teams onsite work directly with users. With confidence that our partners are keeping us secure and providing actionable insight, our cyber teams can work with users to help understand their case for transformation or where legacy systems need to be migrated.
What has been the biggest improvements McLaren has seen in their business because of your digital transformation? Any improvements you did not expect?
Our culture has become more open and users spend more time engaging with each other around business challenges and not solely technical issues. As an IT team, we feel closer to the business and staff can now see or recognize the value of their work.
With better planning, we have improved agility to respond and design future state architectures for the business to make better use of. This gives us greater time to react to market changes and stay ahead of our competition.
An improvement we didn’t expect was our use of estates and facilities. We are now using more collaborative areas and work is now taking place in multiple locations. As more data and processes are transformed through automation and AI, we are spending less time working on data collection or processing and more time collaborating on the output of data.
We have also noted closer relationships between teams and within departments, resulting in tighter service delivery and easier support models.
What advice would you give another business just starting their own digital transformation journey?
The journey doesn’t stop! That would be the first piece of advice I would give someone looking to start their own transformation journey. That might sound scary, but it really does bring a new way of thinking and approach to business challenges. The results that come from this approach are faster and the solutions are often delivered before they would traditionally be deemed ready for consumption.
Find the right people, empower leaders and encourage change. Transformation is not just about technology, building trust and finding the right people is critically important.
Work closely with estates and facilities, much of the transformation activities will result in both a physical and digital change. Working as a team helps make the implementation of new solutions or environments frictionless and provides a more seamless organizational impact.
Finally, digital transformation means you might find yourself talking about domains or areas of business which seemingly have little to no relevance to your day job. They might seem disconnected or irrelevant, although often lead to a better ability to put yourself in someone’s shoes for the day, or better understand their business challenge or use case.
McLaren is a great example of the success that can be realized when using data to drive better business outcomes. Transforming your business and putting data to work for you can be a complex process that can fundamentally change how you operate. As with McLaren, using data can open new doors to business success. Mr. Green said it best, “Digital transformation is about having fun and creating change, it should make you curious and provide a positive business challenge.’