Sportsbet Is Executing An Award-Winning Future Fit Tech Strategy
Sportsbet, an Australia-based online wagering company owned by Flutter Entertainment, is the inaugural winner of Forrester’s Technology Strategy Impact Award for Asia Pacific (APAC). Forrester recognized Sportsbet for applying a future fit technology strategy, which is defined as:
A customer-obsessed approach to technology that enables an organization to quickly reconfigure business structures and capabilities to meet future customer and employee needs with adaptivity, creativity, and resilience.
Sportsbet’s technology team, led by CIO Simon Noonan, enabled customer obsession by putting the customer at the center of its strategy, driving competitive differentiation with the use of platforms, and creating an insights-driven culture aimed at delivering customer value in real time. And the results speak for themselves: From 2019 to 2021, Sportsbet grew its marketshare in Australia’s online sports betting market by more than seven points to stand above 50%. In its submission, Sportsbet’s technology organization further demonstrated how its future fit technology strategy delivered:
- A balance of business, customer, and team member value. A future fit technology strategy allowed Sportsbet to balance the increased regulatory responsibility that comes with a growing market, while continuing to drive sustained customer engagement. Case in point: Sportsbet’s systems processed over one billion bets in 2021, with a peak of 65,000 bets per minute on Melbourne Cup Day. The future fit tech strategy also strengthened Sportsbet’s reputation as a destination employer, allowing the company to build a workforce with the capabilities needed to create the next generation of products. People are placed at the center of this strategy, given their influence on the ability to deliver on the rest of the strategy.
- A strong commitment to ethical and responsible technology. The sports betting industry has a trust challenge. Prioritizing customer safety and privacy above all else gives customers peace of mind that the company “has its customers’ back.” Sportsbet shows empathy, one of Forrester’s seven levers of trust, when it creates “Safer Gambling” data science models that enable the prediction of at-risk customers. As a world first, the company can intervene in real time when customers’ behavior shows they are potentially at risk.
- A high-performance operating model. The organization creates new ways of working in technology that build pride and drive shared accountability for the needs and objectives of the wider business. A technology portfolio prioritization process allows the Sportsbet executive team to drive technology investments with business and customer value. Practices such as “shared codebase” and “global platforms” enable Sportsbet to lead the development of platforms, including sports models and auto traders, cocreated with other Flutter businesses. These practices are constantly evolving and adapting to the changing landscape in which technology operates. For instance, the company’s DevOps culture is evolving to target a NoOps world that either automates repetitive operational tasks or removes them altogether.
Sportsbet’s Future Fit Technology Strategy Enables Customer Obsession
The most successful organizations put their customers at the center of everything they do. Forrester calls this customer obsession. And those firms that are customer obsessed have a future fit technology strategy. To achieve such results, Sportsbet’s future fit technology strategy consists of five pillars: 1) AI-driven, 2) powering the customer experience, 3) awesome place to work, 4) our tech DNA, and 5) future-ready, which are broadly aligned to Forrester’s four customer-obsessed principles of:
- Customer-led. The Sportsbet value of “customer first and last” puts the customer at the center of all product and technology decisions. Its tech strategy prioritizes both building a deep understanding of its customers and ensuring its people and systems can act on that data in the moment. Focusing on the “non-negotiables” of availability, reliability, performance, quality, privacy, and security has given Sportsbet a best-in-class customer offering. Its “Safer Gambling” data science models, powered by data platforms and AI frameworks, enable it to predict at-risk customers and intervene in real time when a customer’s behavior shows potential personal risk.
- Insights-driven. Sportsbet aims to become an insights-driven business in order to use insights to drive real-time, automated actions for its customers. The “AIdriven” pillar highlights Sportsbet’s journey to establish an insights-driven culture across the company. To this end, it has established a Sportsbet Data Academy that has upskilled hundreds of employees. Sportsbet has also established data owners outside of technology to cement the role of data in decision-making across the organization. Data governance practices ensure the quality and safe management of all Sportsbet’s data. Its modernization of data platforms through a partnership with Databricks has created a rich environment for the data science teams to bring to life powerful AI models like “Safer Gambling” and personalized product recommendations that are based on real-time trends and customer betting behaviors.
- Fast. Through the “powering the customer experience” and “future-ready” technology strategy pillars, Sportsbet is taking ownership of the platforms that differentiate it from the competition. These Sportsbet-owned platforms are open, flexible, and high performing. By leveraging the Amazon Web Services (AWS) public cloud, Sportsbet can deliver quality products at speed. Its customer experience platform (CXP) enables a “build once for many platforms” paradigm that enables the team to deliver approximately 30% faster than previously across iOS, Android, and web channels. A configurable real-time “generosity engine” has dropped the time to pay out to customers from 16 minutes to 16 seconds.
- Connected. The “our tech DNA” pillar is focused on creating direct links to strategic business objectives, strong ties with product teams, and an ongoing collaboration across teams within technology. This is key to providing reliable, secure, high-performance, and high-quality solutions. Sportsbet has also embraced an “anywhere work” strategy that has been dubbed “location without limits” internally. The combination of AWS workspaces, fully cloud-based infrastructure, and digitally driven processes and collaboration tooling enabled a fully remote working model from the first day of work-from-home orders at the beginning of the pandemic.
The foundations are now in place to allow Melbourne, Australia-based and Cluj, Romania-based teams to work in ways that strike the right balance between autonomy and connectivity that is both sustainable and productive.— James Maddern, GM, planning and architecture
Sportsbet Uses Platforms, Practices, And Partners To Drive Future Fitness
Companies unlock adaptivity, creativity, and resilience with the three drivers of a future fit technology strategy — platforms, practices, and partners. Each driver plays an essential role in promoting growth and improving the overall business strategy:
Technology platforms help enable value streams and deliver relevant value to customers, adaptive practices align both business and technology teams on outcomes, and co-innovation partners assist in driving broad and deep capabilities to accentuate differentiation. Sportsbet’s success shows that other companies can realize benefits by:
- Managing strategic tech platforms to drive competitive differentiation. Sportsbet’s technology platforms consist of a collection of systems, applications, frameworks, and interfaces that enable business capabilities. The platform portfolio consists of customer experience, cloud, risk and trading, betting, data, marketing technology (martech), and generosity, among others. Sportsbet strategically takes ownership for the platforms that differentiate the company from its competitors. This ownership has not only given it a 40% increase in delivery speed but has also unlocked avenues to innovation; provided the foundation for the stability, reliability, and security of its products; and opened the door to reuse via global opportunities. For instance, the risk and trading platform powers 11 million products and three billion price updates annually, facilitating approximately 96 price updates per second for every second of the year.
- Embracing adaptive practices to seize emerging opportunities. At the core of the “our tech DNA” strategy pillar is the creation of a Sportsbet technology delivery model that is tailored to the unique challenges faced by the company. As part of this model, a technology portfolio prioritization process allows the Sportsbet executive team to set delivery direction through review of customer needs, strategic priorities, and the business environment. Elevating the role of platforms ensures data availability, security, maintenance, and continued evolution as an accepted part of delivery. The company is also actively driving the evolution of its DevOps culture to target a NoOps world that either automates repetitive operational tasks or removes them altogether. Lastly, the adoption of shared code-base practices has enabled delivery of global platforms for sports models and auto traders for use by Sportsbet and other Flutter brands.
- Co-innovating with partners to accelerate strategic initiatives. Sportsbet has established partnerships to both accelerate the delivery of strategic initiatives and upskill and train its staff to be able to take ownership on completion. The company’s partnership with AWS has enabled a shift in how the Sportsbet team operates. For instance, it delivered a complete cutover to AWS infrastructure and a shutdown of all physical infrastructure in fewer than 18 months. The partnership now focuses on leveraging more cloud-native services in Sportsbet’s platforms to continue to free up delivery teams to focus on the things that deliver innovative solutions for customers. The two companies have cocreated a cloud academy and data academy, which kickstarted the knowledge journey for over a thousand people as cloud and data became established in Sportsbet’s technology culture.
Companies We Interviewed For This Report
We’d like to thank the individuals from Sportsbet, especially James Maddern, who generously gave their time during the research for this report.