The Premier League, COVID-19 and Digital Transformations
In this interview, PTI Smarter Venues Lead Technology Consultant and Norwich City Football Club CTO, Dan Smith, discusses how their technology projects have helped them with business continuity during COVID-19.
Dan, can you start off by providing us with a brief understanding about you and your role?
My role at PTI is Lead Technology Consultant. In practice, what that means is that my role is CTO – Chief Technology Officer – for clubs and venues within the PTI client base. There are three words I use to describe the key parts of my role – People; Process; Tools. As CTO, I ascertain what technologies and resources a company has, and how to most effectively use them; I determine what current emerging technologies could benefit the company; I define and implement an IT strategy that aligns with and helps achieve the company’s goals.
Day to day, my role has different aspects, some of which include – team management, liaising with key vendors, developing strategies, understanding how best I can help my team, and management of ongoing projects. A hugely exciting part of my role is being able to identify where changes in people, processes and tools can make a difference to the business. Defining a strategy to implement and witnessing a positive outcome is always rewarding, but the most rewarding part is to see a change in people’s behaviours when they see the common goal and come together to be a force stronger than they were before!
We are currently in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. How have your recent projects reinforced the importance of technology within a sporting environment at a time like this?
I think it’s interesting because it’s what we do with technology to drive change, to drive improvements, to identify where technology is lagging and cases where a business can benefit from that continual drive in technology. To an extent its part of the natural way of things in terms of some of the projects that we have delivered for our clients recently, and Norwich City is a perfect example – taking some of the works we did to get them Premier League ready.
We’ve also been incredibly fortuitous in the timing with some of the projects that we have implemented over the last few months have had such a positive impact on the way employees have now been able to work under the current lockdown restrictions. They can stay connected with their teams, senior leadership teams, board, and this technology has enabled them to do that. We’ve been able to transform everyone working in the office one day to working from home the next, with no technological issues.
What are your next steps with the technology projects at Norwich City?
We recently implemented technologies across the board, which has helped 350 users across the business. The first phase of our strategy was aligned around the operations side of the business. The training ground is the next phase of the strategy. Here we will be looking to understand how they’re currently using technology and how we can benefit them at the Lotus Training Ground.
All players, staff, and training ground operations employees have benefited from the technology we’ve implemented, whether that be new technology, phones, Microsoft Teams, or collaboration and communication technologies. They are all there for them to use and they’ve been delivered the training by the Norwich City IT team.
What’s your view on the current situation with COVID-19 and how do you think this will impact the operations and technology used in stadiums later down the line?
To begin with, I think we will see an uptake in people and fans who are wanting to go to stadiums, whatever sport it may be, because of the current restrictions. Fans really have missed the experience of being in stadiums, so there will be a surge when they reopen.
A view from an operational and technological perspective is knowing what we are managing with our clients and who are the teams that we are managing. In terms of how they are managing their end-users, they have been able to demonstrate how vital the technology we have managed and implemented for them has been. They have been able to do their jobs from anywhere and I think potentially there could be a shift in mindset regarding home working. There will be some people that will never come on board with the concept, but a lot more people will understand the benefits of home working. They will realise they don’t have to travel hours a day, and in turn, they can be more productive in the way that they do things, also benefitting in a better quality of life.
There could be a shift now that even if you can’t physically see your staff member, you can collaborate and communicate with them through the technology we’ve implemented, and we may be able to implement more home working. Benefits are a better work-life balance, but businesses might also start to be more attuned to savings they may make – less office space, less travelling, positive effects on the environment from less travel, and in turn how we run the country – it’s quite profound what we are going through now and how people view this.
Would you say that the people within PTI’s client clubs & venues are as productive as they possibly can be within this period?
Initial indications without any data is ‘yes’. Something that I’ve started doing with the team at Norwich is reaching out to all the staff and users, asking them how they are, how they are working, are they having any challenges.
Currently, we are looking from a technology standpoint, but we are planning to broaden that to how their workflow is affected by this change. We understand technology is great as we can share collaboratively, but our workflow or how our department is structured could be proving a challenge because of “x” and we want to get to a point where we understand what “x” is and what the solution is. We may be able to help implement this solution so we can drive different behaviours and understand how to improve those areas.
Right now, we don’t have quantitative data and we are keen to get an understanding on this, but I think partially this is what my CTO role is. It is looking at people and processes and tools – looking at the technology and resources available e.g. people, how businesses are using them, but also how they are looking at them to be improved to help align with not only the overarching goals of the company but how the independent parts of that work underneath and show how an individual department is using its resources best.
Finally, for clubs who don’t have someone like yourself or a CTO in place and are trying to get through this difficult period, what are your tips to help them?
I would say first, step back and understand what problems you are trying to solve and understand what is required. If I was to name one tool that’s made a difference to how several of our clients have been able to communicate including Norwich, I would say Microsoft Teams, as it can help you communicate and collaborate.
That said, I would be wary of pushing out any new tech, especially under a challenging environment without understanding what the problem is that you are trying to solve.
This interview was conducted by PTI Smarter Venue’s Emily Drakeley. See the full interview online.
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