Thinking differently. Thinking digitally.Blog
Supporting the bold aspirations of an ambitious start-up
In most global industries, we see start-ups and smaller enterprises competing against large, established players with much bigger budgets and greater access to the best resources.
The UCI WorldTour is no exception. To be successful, ‘small business’ teams like Team Dimension Data have to be really smart about how they use their resources.
Bringing a business perspective to the Team has helped us focus on where and how we can achieve the biggest gains. As their title sponsor and technology partner, we see ourselves as an extension of the Team. We’re invested in their success and long-term future.
We understand the new world of work that centers on very agile, fail-fast-or-succeed-quickly projects. And we understand the cycling world – we’re not just coming in as technology specialists but as business professionals who speak their language and can help them achieve their goals.
Getting down to business
The Team now has a supervisory board that mirrors the board you’d see in any organization, complete with a chair (me) and CEO (Doug). The board has regular meetings and conference calls, with representation from sponsors, riders, team performance and operations, including marketing, PR, and finance.
The same Digital Advisory team that guides our clients on their digital transformation initiatives is available to the Team to help them address challenges and discuss potential solutions.
We’ve also appointed a dedicated technical contact who works closely with our vendor network to understand their strategies, solutions, and services, and how their technologies could potentially be showcased through Team Dimension Data. For example, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise (ALE) has contributed funding as well as connectivity, asset tracking, and collaboration technology to support logistical operations and keep the Team connected.
A supervisory board gives Team Dimension Data access to business and technology expertise
Operational support for maximum performance
Things don’t run smoothly all the time and, like any business, we have to respond and adapt. We experienced a few setbacks last year when some of the core members of our team were affected by illnesses. To pre-empt illness and injury in the future, we enhanced the Phila health and wellness app and are using Garmin wearable technology to monitor the physical condition of the riders. This will help us get a better understanding of illnesses and injuries, and take action quickly
This last season, we spent a lot of time on securing the right equipment sponsor. Because at this level of competition, it very often is about the bike. In time trials, you’re racing against the clock and normal race tactics don’t apply. It’s vital that the rider is in peak condition and the bike is as fast and aerodynamic as possible.
It was important to us to get a sponsor who was aligned with our way of thinking, who shared the same progressive outlook and would take the time to understand just what the Team required – and we found all of that in BMC.
Both BMC and ALE follow a similar client-management approach to ours, and I believe it’s working. Earlier this year, Edvald Boasson Hagen won the stage 1 time trial at the Tour of Valencia – our first time-trial win to date. We’ve enjoyed several wins and top placements across our World Tour and Continental Tour schedule that indicate our approach is paying off.
A promising future: Several top-three placements for U23 riders in the first quarter of the Continental Tour and WorldTour indicate that the Team’s approach to performance is paying off
Investing in the talent of the future
Having limited resources means we have to be innovative about recruiting and nurturing talent. Another great example of the Team’s ‘think different, think digital’ approach is using virtual reality to identify potential talent through the Zwift Academy program, introduced in 2017.
In 2018, over 30,000 hopefuls from all over the world entered this competition for a chance to secure a one-year pro contract on our Under 23 team.
They participated in a virtual training programme on smart trainers, and from there we select three finalists to ‘ride IRL’ (in real life) with some of the pros from the Team.
Martin Lavrič, the 2018 Zwift Academy winner, is put through his paces in a virtual reality exercise
We’re also developing strategies for nurturing and growing that talent. At the Giro d’Italia, the first Grand Tour of the year, some of the younger, up-and-coming members of the Team will be cycling with more experienced riders – another ‘in real life’ training scenario, only this time with more of a mentoring slant.
Measurable targets for aspirational goals
One of the things I love about the Team is their huge ambitions: to see our riders get more wins at the Tour de France. To put an African rider on the podium of a Grand Tour. To raise awareness of and funding for Qhubeka.
But we can only achieve these by setting smaller targets we can measure progress against – like monitoring our WorldTour points every week. Looking at the numbers, we can see where we need to overachieve to make up the shortfall in points.
Having these measurable targets really helps us to see to what extent we’re tracking against our goals, and identify specific strategies to make up lost ground.
Purpose beyond the podium: Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka
Building a brand with longevity
By the time we get to the Tour de France, we will have had six months of racing behind us and some serious targets ahead. Everything we’re putting in place now is to take the Team from being a disruptor on the WorldTour to a big-budget team with their name in lights.
We may not be leading the rankings just yet, but I truly believe we’re building something of value … and we’re definitely a team to keep watching.