The V8 Supercars competition is entirely built around the concept of speed. However, without proper communication tools in place, the whole event can get congested, resulting in one hell of a pileup. Peter Trimble, V8 Supercars' director of finance, learned this to his chagrin while working with the company's hopelessly outmoded on-premises software — a lingering legacy of the company's humble start-up roots.
"We had evolved from a very, very small company that ran on the smell of an oily rag," Trimble explained to media at the V8 Supercars Tasmania Microsoft 365 event in Launceston.
"We were in a situation where we were using Exchange 2003, with some staff on Exchange 2007 and others on 2010. We had hardware and servers that were well past their use-by-date. We were actually broken in the most basic areas [and] I think it was putting the business at significant risk."
V8 Supercars runs fifteen events around the country each year. The organisation has offices in Queensland and Sydney which employ around 70 roving, full-time staff. Each race car team have between 30-70 staff as well, with the overall number of workers bolstered by a veritable army of volunteers and contractors.
At last weekend's Tasmanian event, the organisation had 60 staff roaming the track grounds, members of the sales team monitoring certain aspects of the event from Sydney and a handful of accountants crunching numbers from multiple locations in Queensland.
All of these individuals needed to be able to communicate and interact with each other between different countries and states, with constant, reliable access to their calendars and email of particular importance. This is something that the old system simply wasn't providing.
The lack of reliability often steered productivity off-track and lead to a collision course with fed-up staff who weren't able to do their jobs properly. Regularly, staff members would turn on their phones only to discover that their email and calendars had not updated.
"At one of our Townsville events last year, we had a member of TV staff working on the travel arrangements for around 400 TV freelance crews using our [on-premises] system to share files," Trimble reflected.
"At the worst possible time, the system froze up. [The staff member] rang me and said she was sitting in Townsville unable to do her job and how extremely frustrating it was. This conversation scarred me, because I'm supposed to give our people the tools they need, so from my perspective the buck stops with me. It made me feel really inadequate. It was also costing us a lot of money to run a broken system."
This incident — and other conversations like it — were the main catalyst that prompted V8 Supercars to finally replace its cut-and-shut lemon of a system with something more reliable.
Moving To Office 365
V8 Supercars hired the IT consultancy firm Synapse to conduct a situational analysis of its system and software needs. The firm recommended migrating to the cloud-based Office 365 suite, which includes Microsoft Exchange, Lync, SharePoint, and Office Web Apps. The implementation was split into three stages, with the company's finance team testing out a pilot followed by a company-wide rollout in two phases.
"The rollout ended up taking around six weeks. We had a problem in our pilot which turned out to be a login script written by a previous consultant we had used," Trimble said.
"Once we got past the problem that we had created ourselves, it was all smooth sailing from there. Now, so long as we've got internet connectivity we can do whatever we need."
One of the chief drivers to adopting Office 365 was access to Microsoft SharePoint, which Trimble said would be a "huge" change for the company.
"We've got six people in New Zealand at the moment, some of whom are focused on this event and they're accessing files and all sorts of things. We have these massive shared files, such as contracts or whatever they happen to be, that our staff need quick access too.
"We're currently in the process of redefining the share capabilities within Office 365, including the table of contents, structure and the security protocols. So we're using the SharePoint functionality, but really the big step will come in phase two [of the rollout], which we're around halfway through at the moment."
Trimble said that the company aimed to provide a fully cloud hosted solution in two or three years' time. "Some aspects of our business, like [customer relationship management] Microsoft Dynamics are still on our servers. We'll be looking at migrating those [into the cloud] as part of Step Two."
Disclosure: Lifehacker attended the V8 Supercars Tasmania Microsoft 365 event as a guest of Microsoft.