Half of his 14-member IT group is dedicated to software development. Even so, the traditional waterfall development method the team's developers had been using could get slow, he says. Gather requirements, create a functional specification, create a technical specification, build and test. The ultimate users of the system were involved mainly at the beginning and end, but not during the whole process.
Yet it's all that time in between when small corrections and additions can occur that make the end product much better, says Visitacion at Forrester. "When you see something tangible faster, it creates a stronger sense of reality of what's going to be valuable to you and what's going to be extraneous. It allows the team to focus on the essence of the project."
Under Lotus F1's new agile approach, users attend daily meetings with developers and look at progress every three weeks. Testers are involved all the way through. "By the time we deliver, there's been a huge amount of interaction, which we never used to have," Hackland says.
Visualization in the Pit
His team recently used visualization software from iRise to improve a key software tool: a race strategy system that helps the crew determine when to pit cars. The tool considers factors such as lap number and speed, position in the field, wear on the tires, what competitors are doing and data from the 200 sensors on Lotus F1's cars. It can calculate 10,000 race simulations in the time it takes to run a lap. If crew engineers have to fiddle with a clunky user interface or wait for an analytics result that takes a few minutes to compute, they waste time--and opportunity, Hackland says.
The visualization his developers produced with iRise let pit crew members interact with new features in the user interface, giving feedback to incorporate into the finished product. Testers could try the unfinished code to get a better idea of whether it would work for them. In the old way, users may just have seen static screen shots, or nothing at all, during development. "It was difficult for users to say whether they liked it or found it easy to use," he says.
Hackland says he expects his staff to refine its approach to agile as work continues. "If [IT changes] reduce the amount of manual work engineers have to do, they can focus on the car and driver," he says. The team, meanwhile, prepares for the next two races in Spain and Monaco this month. Maybe Lotus F1 will find that three seconds.