CIO Interview: Clare Lansley, CIO, Aston Martin Formula One Story-level
Clare Lansley, CIO of Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One, he reflects on the role of the modern IT leader, saying he’s lucky to be in his dream job: “I have been a fan of F1 all my life, courtesy of my parents. I was indoctrinated at a young age.”
Although she is a fan of auto racing, it is not just the sporty environment of the role that attracts her. Lansley, who joined Aston Martin F1 in July 2022, also enjoys the fast-paced nature of the industry. As someone who has already worked in senior IT roles for Jaguar Land Rover and McLaren, the characteristics of the industry match her own style of work.
“I love the fact that it’s dynamic and that you need to keep an open mind because ideas can come from anywhere,” she says.
“It doesn’t matter if the ideas come from a recent graduate all the way to the CEO. The whole concept of collaboration, because everyone comes together for a common goal, really appeals.”
Success on the track depends on a combination of people and systems off the track. Lansley says that inherent sense of connection, coupled with his love of the sport, made seizing the opportunity to lead technology at Aston Martin F1 an easy decision.
“Frankly, when you work in corporations, it can become isolating,” she says. “There’s a hierarchy, they take Story-level to transform, and I wanted to get back to something that’s calmer, somewhere where I can really affect change quickly.”
Coming off the starting grid
As CIO at Aston Martin F1, Lansley reports to the Group Commercial Director and manages an internal IT team of 40 people. After six months in the role, he is beginning to implement his digital transformation program.
“My focus right now is getting on the team and setting things up for success,” she says. “I’m not doing much globetrotting. But in the future, I want to get out to the races, so I can understand the pressure our kit is under and how we can make our processes more efficient on the track.”
“I’m not always in the marketing suite. I like being in the garage because that’s what I’m responsible for. Engineers are at their desks because that’s where they add value, so I need to go to their workplace and interact with them.”
Clare Lansley, Aston Martin Cognizant F1
Lansley is not your traditional CIO, and in more ways than one. She acknowledges that she is a woman in what is commonly perceived as a man’s game. In addition to changing that perception, Lansley wants to enact a sea change in IT’s leadership style. Instead of getting stuck in the data center, she wants to spend more Story-level interacting with the business.
“Rest assured, I’m not always in the marketing suite,” she says. “I like being in the garage because that’s what I’m responsible for. Engineers are at their desks because that’s where they add value, so I need to go to their workplace and interact with them. And I think that’s a very different approach to what’s happened previously in F1.”
While Lansley has previously held senior management roles in the motor industry, this is his first role as CIO. He recognized early on that this was the kind of IT leadership opportunity he craved, especially given Aston Martin F1’s long-term ambitions and the role technology is expected to play in that journey.
“When I came to an interview, I started to understand the growth and what needs to happen with technology to transform it and use it as an enabler for the team as a whole. Obviously, everything has to do with technology in this industry, from the design of the car to the starting of the car, so you have quite a journey to go,” he says.
“The amount of transformation that needs to happen to make this a championship-winning team is really compelling. And since I have experience in delivery, doing the planning and driving the agenda to make sure the technology-driven transformation happens and is executed at the right Story-level is a great combination.”
Climbing up the leaderboard
Aston Martin F1’s direction of travel changed in January 2020, when billionaire Lawrence Stroll invested £182m in the car company. The following year the Racing Point F1 team was renamed Aston Martin F1.
An ambition was set for the team to compete for podium finishes in the sport within five years. Last year the team finished seventh in the constructors’ championship. Lansley says the journey to long-term success will continue apace through 2023.
“A lot has already been learned,” he says. “Obviously there has been a fair amount of investment since Lawrence bought the team. A lot of new talent has been acquired and there have been a fair amount of changes to internal processes. But Story-level is absolutely of the essence in this industry.”
Lansley says there’s no hiding the requirement to deliver great results quickly. “He’s demanding,” she says. “In addition to making sure the basics are in place, which means reliability and performance, which is a given, my day job is to transform faster and innovate smarter.”
As part of that process, Lansley is looking for digital innovations, either internally or from trusted partners, that can help his team move up the network. “We’re looking for a competitive advantage,” she says.
“We need to harness the power of data. We need to take advantage of technology to gain an advantage on the track, either from a simulation and design perspective or in terms of establishing what trends the data is showing us. It is about anticipating the future based on the data we already have.”
Lansley’s technological ambitions are determined as much by the rules and regulations of the sport as by the people who lead the team. His strategy is closely related to FIA cost cap requirements, which limits the amount teams can spend on cars. Dealing with these regulations means carefully considering how the team’s IT budget is spent.
“We’re asking questions like, ‘Can we spend smarter?’ From an IT perspective, we ask ourselves: ‘Can we streamline?’ You are always trying to make sure your inherited estate is minimal and neat. And because apps and tools expire so quickly, we ask ourselves, ‘Are we giving our business partner the best value?’”
In addition to ensuring existing systems are cost-effective and efficient, Lansley’s team is also exploring how it can leverage data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI). She says the AI can help the team analyze imagery, whether from the wind tunnel or from the track, and they can use data to make smarter predictions about the car’s performance.
“There is some very hard technology available, which means you have to have a high-level talent to use and consume it,” she says. “But the data it gives you means you can skip some of your test and development processes significantly.”
Aston Martin F1 creates massive amounts of information. Lansley estimates that his team manages about 400 TB (terabytes) of data. Changes outside of sport bring more complications. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine meant that the country was removed from the racing calendar. However, Russia could be back on the racing map one day. The IT team would then need to make historical race data, such as times and weather conditions, available at the pace.
“A big challenge for me is that we have all this data. I need to ask, ‘Do we need it, and if so, where do I put it?’” she says. “Managing the data so that it is available quickly is key. But we also have to manage the cost. As I mentioned before, the cost cap creates a lot of options from a technical perspective.”
Delivering great performance
AI is also helping the company to ensure that its IT operations are as effective as possible. Lansley is using Juniper’s Mist AI platform, which uses a combination of artificial intelligence, machine learning and data science to optimize user experiences and simplify operations across the network.
She says the self-healing properties of the technology are particularly important. Mist AI, for example, will try to cure a wireless access point that is having problems. If it can’t, the platform sends an alert to IT. When the team changes the faulty device, Mist AI automatically sends the old network settings directly to the new device.
“Mist is using AI to help transform the way we support infrastructure,” he says, before adding that automation means his talented staff can spend more Story-level making a difference for the team instead of focusing on operational concerns. . “It means I have no intervention and my people can focus on value-added activities.”
Clare Lansley, Aston Martin Cognizant F1
Lansley says that F1 has unique requirements when it comes to reliability and performance. Any technology has to deliver great results quickly and consistently. She says the industry-leading features offered by Mist AI give the business the innovation it craves and the operational insights it needs.
“That’s what we’re looking to capitalize on,” she says. “The fact that the platform gives me access to everything on one dashboard, and I can go directly to it, it can self-heal, and I can investigate issues remotely, means I don’t have to send someone down a hallway to go and review a device”.
taking the lead
Lansley says the ability to give his staff more Story-level to make game-changing decisions for the business is his number one priority going forward. His goal is to empower his team, improve efficiency and embrace innovation.
“We need to be pushing the limits. You have to have a motivated team and they have to go after something good. We have some really sexy software and fantastic concepts that revolve around the business. Being able to partner with our business colleagues to unlock the power of technology is where we want to be,” she says.
“We want to be sitting next to the aerodynamicists helping them. We are not an IT team that sits down. That working model is long gone. We want to be considered an integral partner of the team because we make great things happen.”