“The market dynamic in gaming has been changing at quite a pace for a number of years, leaving the door open for software and infrastructure consolidation,” says Sean Convery, CTO at BoyleSports.
Sean Convery took over the CTO role at BoyleSports in November. Prior to that he was CIO at Viatel and the Digiweb Group, where he worked on the company’s technology roadmap and managed the company’s data centre and hosting business covering tens of thousands of websites.
Prior to Viatel Convery managed a major technology migration at O2 Ireland and was a senior managing director in charge of Applied Networks at Nortel, with global responsibilities.
At BoyleSports, Convery is responsible for supporting the company’s business strategy and is responsible for all aspects of technology across infrastructure, software and support.
Established in 1982 by John Boyle, BoyleSports has a network of betting shops across Ireland and is active online and on mobile across a number of platforms, including BoyleSports.com, BoylePoker.com, BoyleCasino.com, BoyleGames.com, BoyleLotto.com, BoyleBingo.com and BoyleVegas.com, the company is also active across Europe with online sports betting sites in German, Spanish and Swedish.
Can you outline the breadth and scope of the technology rollout across your organisation and what improvements it will bring to the company?
As with most organisations, we have the challenge of a large retail estate running alongside a thriving online business. Our organisation covers from the Far East to Gibraltar, UK with the majority of decision-making functions here in Ireland.
What are the main points of your company’s IT strategy?
The main attack points are three-pronged:
1. Online product experience.
2. Infrastructure design, capacity and PCI/security projects.
3. Disaster recovery. For example, recently we moved some of our perimeter network infrastructure into Microsoft Azure. The challenge we have found with this element of our infrastructure is that it is difficult to scale during high-profile events using our private infrastructure as we have a fixed set of resources available to us. Azure offered us the ability to create an elastic infrastructure that could scale in and out as we needed it to, allowing us to better meet demand and reduce the risk of downtime. This approach also allowed us to leverage the large investments made by Microsoft in security, independent certifications and network flood protection.
For example, recently we moved some of our perimeter network infrastructure into Microsoft Azure. The challenge we have found with this element of our infrastructure is that it is difficult to scale during high-profile events using our private infrastructure as we have a fixed set of resources available to us. Azure offered us the ability to create an elastic infrastructure that could scale in and out as we needed it to, allowing us to better meet demand and reduce the risk of downtime. This approach also allowed us to leverage the large investments made by Microsoft in security, independent certifications and network flood protection.
Can you give a snapshot of how extensive your IT infrastructure is?
BoyleSports has an extensive retail network with PC and server counts in the thousands with 10,000-plus TVs across our network.
In terms of managing IT budgets, what are your key thoughts on how CIOs/heads of technology should achieve their goals?
More and more CIOs are taking more responsibility for the overall business’ product offering crossing all vertical products. This puts them front and centre with customer user journeys and experiences.
How complex is the infrastructure; are you taking steps to simplify it?
The market dynamic in gaming has been changing at quite a pace for a number of years, leaving the door open for software and infrastructure consolidation. This, in parallel with the need for a DR story, drives the simplification story very strongly.
Do you have a large in-house IT team, or do you look to strategically outsource where possible?
There is a large in-house team covering everything from development and testing through helpdesk and infrastructure support. However, this core is supported by a number of third parties covering specific building blocks: for development, allowing for more agility and focus, alongside infrastructure support resources where geography and specific knowledge are costly to replicate.
What are some of the main responsibilities of your own role, and how much of it is spent on deep technical issues compared to the management and business side?
Being a new CTO in the world of gaming, there’s a lot of getting up to speed on this industry’s business processes and the internal workings of the organisation, both inside and outside of technology. However, the technology aspects and challenges are very similar from the managed hosting and communications industry. Right now, the technology challenges are dominating but, looking forward, I see the management side coming on par with the time spent on technology requirements and issues.
What are the big trends and challenges in your sector, and how do you plan to use IT to address them?
The biggest challenge is the event-driven nature of the industry, with race meetings and large sporting events generating a lot of spiky load periodically and, in between times, the system is relatively quiet. This, on top of our drive for online growth across multiple geographies and capacity management, is the key challenge. Key to addressing this at the right price point and right solution are the private and public cloud solutions and the scalability model that they deliver.
What metrics or measurement tools do you use to gauge how well IT is performing?
Value for money. The see-saw of great customer experience vs cost reductions and greater business efficiency.
Are there any areas you’ve identified where IT can improve, and what are they?
I’ve inherited a great team with high-quality individuals with great can-do attitudes. For me, areas of improvement are coming through standing back and looking at the bigger picture in the way we architect our solutions in infrastructure and in code, and from there we can see the building blocks that we have to work on, or bring in partners to help us with agility and speed of how we get to our end goals.
What other projects do you have lined up for the year, and what will they contribute to the business?
I’ve mentioned a lot of them already. Lots of capacity and infrastructure projects, more user features at our backend systems and more focus on user journeys and the drive for a great user experience at our front end.