Indianaplis Speedway Races Toward Collaboration

As the digital age unfolds, it’s increasingly clear that collaboration is the glue that holds organizations together. It enables them to connect and interconnect with partners and customers in the most effective way possible. But identifying a collaboration strategy and putting it to maximum use is no simple task, particularly as an array of business processes and technologies intersect.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS), which manages the famous Indianapolis 500 and numerous other auto racing events, found that workers were essentially stalled out and wasting precious time as a result of disconnected systems and processes. As a result, the 100-year-old company has undergone a series of upgrades to foster communication and collaboration.

“We have people working together who were somewhat disconnected in the past,” says CTO Rhonda Winter. “We recognized a need to make a significant change and speed decision making.”

The first step was to migrate from an old PBX environment to a more modern unified communications (UC) platform. From the beginning, IMS viewed the project as a collaboration initiative rather than a phone replacement project.

The company, which has about 400 employees, moved to Microsoft Lync about two years ago in order to streamline audio calling, video conferencing, screen sharing and instant messaging capabilities. Employees no longer have physical phones sitting on their desks. Instead, they use Plantronics Voyager Pro headsets that work with both computers and mobile phones via Bluetooth.

These features and tools have created far more efficient ways to work. “We are now able to see who is available and who isn’t,” Winter says. “We’re able to find the right person to connect with in a given situation, and we can share documents, screens and other information.”

As a result, “We are making decisions faster and better because we have a scaffold of intelligence. Each time somebody learns something significant, the organization embeds that level of intelligence into the next round of communication and problem solving.”

Winter believes the headsets have contributed to the gains. Employees can move around the office and facilities untethered and hands-free while they talk—including at busy ticket counters and when they are out of the office. They can connect to the Lync system via a laptop or other mobile device.

“This creates a far more flexible IT and work model that matches the needs of today’s dispersed workforce,” Winter explains. “It’s possible to add participants to a conversation as they are needed and switch from one form of communication—such as messaging or calling—to another.”

An added benefit is that the IT department at IMS doesn’t have to fuss with provisioning and decommissioning physical phones or managing a voice network.

Winter estimates that the UC system and headsets have led to a time and labor savings of about 100 hours a year per employee. Together, they also contributed to a 40 percent reduction in communication charges.

“We have adopted a more strategic approach to communication and collaboration,” Winter concludes. “We have greatly simplified the technology, while introducing far more sophisticated and powerful features.”

 Photo by Mike Young

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