V8 Supercars is one of the fastest growing sports in Australia and the company behind it all, has an amazing logistical challenge, around 70 staff work tirelessly to organise 18 teams (each with 30-70 staff of their own) and 28 cars to get to 15 events across 3 countries. Something you may not realise is that V8 Supercars is essentially an event management company, with 9 of the events actually fully managed by the business.
In the 2013 season, we see the introduction of 2 new manufacturers join V8 Supercars, increasing the complexity even further than previous years. Now with Holden, Ford, Nissan and Mercedes Benz, the race sport is attracting more fans than ever before. Last year 1.9 million people attended V8 Supercar events.
If that wasn’t enough the 2013 season sees the introduction of the Car of the Future (COTF). With dramatic safety improvements like moving the fuel cell in front of the rear axle, a new suspension package, new tyres and many other changes, this season is seriously different than those of the past.
Exciting as all of the changes may be for motorsport fans, for V8 Supercars, behind the scenes, some necessary and overdue changes are being made. Until last year the hardware and software that powered V8 Supercars was a shambles. Some areas of the business relying on a consumer broadband plan to try and get work done, an aging hardware fleet and severe software downtimes all demanding a change to the business.
“we hadn’t kept up with the technology required to support operations”
V8 Supercar CEO David Malone attributes this situation to them being a small business that grew rapidly. After assessing the available options the decision to move to Microsoft’s 365 offering was apparently a no brainer. It serviced many of the companies needs and was first implemented as a trial in the finance division.
Currently the benefits V8 Supercars are receiving isn’t a cost saving (although that’s likely in the future), instead it’s gains in reliability, productivity and without it, Malone says they wouldn’t be around. It’s clear that while racing fans wouldn’t know it, system-wise, V8 Supercars was very broken. In many ways, the move to Office 365 is the growing up of V8 Supercars into a mature, sustainable business.
As part of the business level Office 365 subscription, the company now enjoys access to not only the Office productivity apps, but are also investigating the use of Lync and have migrated a number of their document storage to Sharepoint. The expectation is that the site and library permissions available in Sharepoint will solve another big issue for the business. Document approval workflows, searching and many other features are also motivating factors in the decision.
The biggest take away is that due to the per-user licencing model and cloud hosting, the business can continue to scale well into the future. One of the biggest challenges is connectivity at events and V8 Supercars says most venues not have Fibre connections, but some still don’t. Thanks to some intelligent network switches, they auto configure to the best available connection on offer.
In Tasmania in particular, there are 40 staff at the track, with 6 already in New Zealand preparing for next round already. These staff need to be in constant communication with employees here and back at HQ on the Gold Coast. After the Auckland round, the 28 transporters will be packed into 2 x 747 planes (each with more than 100 tonnes of gear) to fly to Austin, the first US-round ever. The total value of goods being shipped to the other side of the world is more than $30 million.
Last year V8 Supercars was broadcast to more than 500 million homes across 137 countries, and the US round presents an amazing opportunity to expand that audience even further. Previously the company used a custom written software that was prone to freezing during the most important times and became a serious risk to the business. Support calls from staff with complaints about the system would regularly make their way to the executive team and this was motivation to find a better solution. The transition to Office 365, that’s hardware and software upgrade took around 6-8 weeks, with 4 of those weeks lost to an issue with one of the custom scripts.
Just last year the company was still using exchange 2003 and it was 2012, they fought with a mixed environment of hardware and software, making collaboration nearly impossible. There were large costs associated with running a broken system., many of them difficult to track financially, but employees would regularly be staying back late to resolve issues or simply get their work done due to system issues.
Another emerging issue for many small businesses was entering V8 Supercars. That was BYOD, this is now fully supported by V8 Supercars as they now have the infrastructure to support it. So the future looks incredibly bright for V8 Supercars as a company and the sports doing fantastically. They claim it’s the 3rd biggest motorsport championship in the world after F1 and NASCAR.
Disclaimer: Jason attended the event as a guest of Microsoft.