Imagine a situation where you get to spend time with the leader of a world-class organization. Have that person be the head of one of the most popular racing teams in the world with a global racing viewership of 500 million. Now…what if that individual seemed more interested in what YOU do and how YOU and YOUR organization could help him achieve success…THAT would be very interesting!
Well, this is exactly what happened when I was in Hannover Germany attending Hannover Messe 2015…the world’s largest manufacturing tradeshow. I was fortunate to spend several days with Thomas Mayer, the COO for Lotus F1 Team. We’d asked Mr. Mayer to come and speak at the event about the relationship that Lotus F1 Team has with Microsoft and the success we’ve had together.
Mr. Mayer presented a story of how Formula One racing is all about numbers such as lap times, horsepower, and huge investment dollars in R&D. The one number that he came down to identifying as being the most important was the number “1” itself. He stated that after all the money is spent, all the testing and training of the race teams, and all the qualifying and races have been won…people only care about who finished in first at the end of the season. After all, in Formula One racing being crowned champion and being number “1” is all that matters.
When reflecting on my meetings with Mr. Mayer I was amazed at the level of technology in the sport. Lotus F1 is in reality an aerospace company that seeks to build airplanes that keep all four wheels on the ground. Whether it’s the 300+ sensors on the vehicle collecting over 25 GB in performance metrics each race, the 15,000 different production design plans for the car they go through each season, or the carbon fiber and alloy metal 3D printers they use to build parts for the car, it was evident that they are not just a racing team. They are a manufacturer that has to do what normally takes airplane manufacturers 14 years to build and go-to-market with…only they’re doing it in a much more expedited manner by building 2 new cars for every race during the season!
Performing like this takes a team. Like Lotus F1 Team…Microsoft’s Satya Nadella has fully embraced this team approach as seen in the “One Microsoft” strategy and vision. He feels that we are best positioned to succeed when we work together. No longer are internal departments silos of information, instead we seek to connect the various parts of Microsoft together to drive a high customer value proposition. Connecting operations and departments is not something that we’re simply asking our customers to embrace, in fact its something we're now showing customers how to do.
Satya also feels that innovation is key for Microsoft to succeed. Satya stated that “Our industry does not respect tradition – it only respects innovation.” This is an area where Microsoft and Lotus F1 Team align quite clearly. Formula One teams are required to follow strict rules around safety, sportsmanship, and the ever present goal of reducing costs associated with racing. One phrase that Mr. Mayer used was “Innovation through regulation.” This phrase refers to the constant need for race teams to go as fast as possible even with continually changing regulations being handed down to them from the racing governing body. Mr. Mayer highlighted how this competitive marketplace is ever changing and Lotus F1 Team needs tools provided by Microsoft to help innovate at the fastest pace possible.
The common thread of innovation for both Microsoft and Lotus F1 Team is obvious. For Lotus F1 Team, the results of innovation are measured in basic numbers…did the performance gains improve them in the overall standings. In an environment where thousandths of a second determine success, Lotus F1 Team needs to effectively analyze performance data and turn it into useful information. They’re actively working to determine how a cloud infrastructure can help them be more agile and reallocate the onsite server costs at races to move those resources over to helping build a better aerodynamics packages for the car.
This example with Lotus F1 Team is how innovation and success happens in racing, but in reality it’s the same for traditional manufacturing companies. Success means using resources effectively, engaging directly in the marketplace, and leveraging the latest tools and technologies. Additionally, manufacturers must find ways to make internal departments work cohesively together…such as connecting the sales, marketing, and service departments. With Microsoft customers now can have the tools, the technology, and the know-how to meet those goals…and finish at the top!