Masterclass delegate story: Oneserve

Delegates to the latest Breakthrough Masterclass hosted by the McLaren Group find a compelling business story when they attend, as Rob Austin, Commercial Director of cloud-computing company Oneserve explains.

The McLaren Group recently hosted another Breakthrough Masterclass, with businesspeople from every corner of the UK SME community invited to visit the McLaren Technology Centre in Surrey. Home to McLaren divisions including McLaren Automotive and McLaren Applied Technologies, as well as the McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 team, the Centre is surrounded by a series of huge artificial lakes used to cool the building. In these space-age surroundings, delegates got a first-hand view of how McLaren maintain their innovative approach. Among these delegates was motor racing enthusiast Rob Austin, Commercial Director of Oneserve, a provider of field service management software.
What were you most looking forward to about this Masterclass and what were your first impressions of the Technology Centre?
I am a Formula 1 fan and I know how McLaren operate as a business – the structured approach, the professionalism, etc. So I was keen to see that. I found the whole building and facility quite awe-inspiring. The size, the design, the whole eco-approach behind the site says a lot about McLaren as a business. The attention to detail was very evident.

"We are a technology business, so what was very interesting to me was that McLaren’s success seems to stem from collecting reams and reams of data, but picking out the right data" Rob Austin, Commercial Director, Oneserve

McLaren Racing’s Chief Engineer Philip Prew spoke about how the Formula 1 team constantly strives for greater achievements. What did you take from that?
That team ethos really came across as well as the pride and passion in what [Philip] does. McLaren drivers stand on the podium one in four races and the Group clearly want to maintain that. They’ve still got that drive to get there. Whereas I think in a lot of organisations you might not get an insight into that frustration, we saw that they are obviously doing something in the background to win through. And rightly so. In tough times, you’ve got to put your head above the parapet and continue to fight. I took a lot from that.
Vice President of McLaren Applied Technologies (MAT) Geoff McGrath talked about the Group’s approach to data analytics. What did you make of his presentation?
We are a technology business, so what was very interesting to me was that McLaren’s success seems to stem from collecting reams and reams of data, but picking out the right data and converting it into an understanding of what the issues are around what they are trying to analyse and resolve. It sounds like a contradiction, but you can analyse too much. Geoff quoted a case of one business that was collecting thousands of metrics. MAT went in and stripped out all but a handful. That’s a very difficult thing to do. The key to that kind of success – and this is something we’d very much like to emulate – is to look at relevant data to ensure the KPIs [key performance indicators] you’re producing are the right ones. You only need to have four or five key drivers, but identifying those drivers is the difficult bit.
What else did you see on the day that stayed with you?
The level of professionalism in the people we saw as we toured the building. A lot of them were quite young, yet they all had an immense amount of pride in what they do. Everyone seemed focused and happy in what they were doing. That’s an amazing achievement in any business.
What lessons have you learned from this Masterclass?
The key lesson that struck me related to getting our product out there by partnering and harnessing specialists. What Geoff said was that MAT had 10 different technologies at one time that it wanted to take to market, but they waited for the right business partners. What we can take from that is that while we’ve got a solution for any number of sectors, customers in those markets aren’t going to have confidence in us. If we can use specialist partners, we can deliver our technology while the specialists deliver their experience in that market.
Is there anything you think you will try to change in your business as a result of attending the Masterclass?
What I liked was McLaren’s whole approach and the fact that they had this shared aim for excellence and winning across the whole team – that was very evident – as well as the distinctive approach to data analytics, using metrics wisely. So these are things we can instil in our business. A lot of McLaren’s success is down to the pride in the McLaren name. That’s something we can’t recreate, but it’s something we can aspire to.

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