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Crescent Racing, Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team, is tapping into managed unified communications (UC) and IT services from GCI to support its bid for success in the 2018 World Superbike Championships.
Over the past two decades, says managing director and team principal Paul Denning, Crescent has competed and achieved success in a number of motorbike racing championships.
These include the British Superbike and Supersport Championships and MotoGP – a rough equivalent to Formula 1 in the motorcycling world – where it raced as Suzuki’s factory team between 2005 and 2011. Since 2012, it has been competing in the World Superbike Championship – the highest level championship for production-based motorcycles – again roughly equivalent to various touring car championships – where it represents Yamaha.
However, in addition to running a racing team, Crescent is also one of southern England’s longest-standing motorcycle dealerships, with a history dating back to the 1950s and three stores in Bournemouth, Ringwood and Southampton stocking Honda, KTM, Suzuki and Yamaha models.
This has introduced an additional note of complexity to the firm’s IT, says Denning, due to the need to accommodate different manufacturer’s requirements in terms of parts, servicing, warranties and so on, alongside those of the team.
“The team is actually a more complicated, but inclusive part of the dealer management system, so things are managed across the three stores and racing is treated as a fourth,” he says.
Its relationship with managed services provider (MSP) GCI began around 10 years ago, initially as a business development play. “The relationship really began as an intro to the racing team, because they were looking for a platform for experiential promotions for customers,” says Denning. “A lot of our long-term partnerships are not sponsorships but B2B developments.”
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This quickly morphed into a managed services arrangement, and over the past decade the partnership has helped Crescent across a broad spectrum of its IT, including servers, cabling and telephony, with cloud services backed into GCI’s own datacentre.
For the team specifically, it has led on enhancing its communications capabilities, supplying it with a portable satellite that can be carried in the team truck to European races, meaning the team is in control of its own communications and does not have to depend on the limited infrastructure that may be available on-site. It also built them ruggedised servers that could withstand being roughly handled and shipped around on the back of a lorry.
“We are about 100 people all-in, we have no IT department as such and people have to multitask,” says Denning. “Really, GCI has become our IT department. We don’t choose anything – it’s recommended by GCI and they’ve always been spot-on, cost-efficient and with 24/7 backup they have specialists in all areas, so if we struggle we can get it fixed.”
GCI has now switched up Crescent’s internal communications systems, installing Microsoft’s Skype for Business UC service to help the team keep in touch on race days, whilst travelling and back at headquarters. Crescent is taking advantage of features such as instant messaging, voice over IP (VoIP), video-conferencing and desktop sharing.
The organisation has also signed up to GCI’s tailored e-learning portal, UCversity, which brings together information from across Microsoft’s suite of office productivity tools, conferencing and devices, and helps users learn at their own pace.
Adam Barnes, Crescent’s general manager and de facto head of IT, says moving to Skype for Business has been a great help to those employees on the racing side of the business, who are on the road in multiple locations a lot of the time.
“Obviously with the race team being as it is, the biggest issue for the guys is the ability to communicate with each other and see when they are physically available,” he says.
“Skype for Business not only gives you the ability to communicate through traditional email and messaging, but voice, and presence either on mobile or the specialist handsets we use in the team, so it made sense to simplify things on the road.”
“Professional motorsport does not allow for any downtime, and GCI’s 24/7 support services, staff training and IT recommendations have allowed us to focus on the priorities and on sharing data, reports and design files from the race tracks of the world to Yamaha EU and Yamaha Japan,” says Denning.