For his control and deployment of technology at the company whose Stockholm venue hosted last year’s Eurovision song contest, David Jones deserves top marks. He has implemented customer Wi-Fi and mobile apps, digital signage, business intelligence and digital marketing solutions. And he has set up a digital innovation group to identify product opportunities, with one of the first wins being a tool that allows the business to predict what food and drink products will over-index at a future venue event.
Senior vice president of IT, Europe
Anschutz Entertainment Group
How are you influencing the products, customer experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
I am responsible for IT strategy and management in Europe for the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), and I manage an IT team based in the UK, Germany and Sweden.
AEG is one of the leading sports and entertainment presenters in the world. In Europe we own or operate businesses in five cities – London, Paris, Stockholm, Berlin and Hamburg. These include The O2 and The SSE Arena, Wembley in London, the Accor Hotels Arena in Paris, the Tele2 Arena and Ericsson Globe in Stockholm, the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin, and the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg. We are also a presenter of live music events, including the Barclaycard British Summer Time concerts held in Hyde Park each summer, and an owner of sports teams, including the Eisbären ice hockey team in Berlin. We also own the successful London commuter riverboat service MBNA Thames Clippers.
The European IT team at AEG is aligned with this focus, and three of my direct reports (and their teams) have a day-to-day responsibility for focusing on the customer: the director of digital, who works with our European marketing and commercial leaders to develop our digital strategy and deliver digital products; the director of business intelligence, who works with our marketing, strategy and financial teams to better understand our customers and business performance; and our director of network infrastructure and venue technology, who is responsible for delivering the technology solutions in our venues, festival sites and boats that enable us to deliver a great customer experience.
The IT team is responsible for many areas which influence our products and customer experience, and we are continually delivering innovation in each of these areas. For example:
- website technology and e-commerce solutions
- high-quality public Wi-Fi solutions for our venues, festivals and boats
- customer relationship management, big data and analytics
- mobile applications
- digital signage
- point of sale.
Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the last 12 months and their impact on your organisation’s performance
Our business broke ground on two major real estate projects in Europe: a new designer outlet village at The O2, and a new entertainment district adjacent to the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin. I have defined the technology strategy for these developments, including initiatives such as customer Wi-Fi and mobile apps, digital signage, business intelligence and digital marketing solutions.
I put in place a three-person business intelligence team from February 2016 to provide our leadership with analytics of our commercial performance and customer data. The team has engaged with our businesses to develop a number of BI solutions, including mobile-optimised real-time KPI dashboards, a data warehouse for Thames Clippers which allows detailed analysis of customer journeys, demographic profiles of our customers to support sponsorship sales, and an ‘event opportunities’ pack that highlights where opportunities exist to drive commercial performance at arena events based on demographic and point of sale data.
We tendered for and appointed a company to develop a mobile app platform for all of our venues in Europe. The first mobile apps built on this platform will launch at The O2 and Tele2 Arenas in the summer of 2017, and will support an ‘in-app’ ticket, ticket purchase, venue maps, and at-seat ordering of merchandise, food and drink. By procuring this at a Europe-wide level, we will achieve better value from our investment, and will have the opportunity to identify and share successful initiatives between businesses.
We completed major technology projects across our businesses. They included a high-density Wi-Fi solution in the Avenue at The O2 and a major upgrade of digital signage and point of sale on the main arena concourse, a new in-house developed point of sale system and on-board Wi-Fi offering for MBNA Thames Clippers, a new digital signage solution at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin, and a new network and point of sale solution at the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg.
Finally, the Ericsson Globe in Stockholm was host to the Eurovision song contest in May 2016. We delivered a major technology upgrade of the venue, including a completely new customer Wi-Fi solution in the first three months of 2016, and support for a week of highly technology-dependent events, culminating in the grand final itself.
What has been your involvement with innovation at your organisation – in particular, with products, business model and technology – over the last 12 months?
In 2016, I established a digital innovation group, which consists of the senior managers of each of our business units, along with marketing, commercial and technology leaders from across Europe. We meet at least twice a year to learn from each other and external experts, and to continue to develop and evolve our European digital strategy.
Examples of innovation include:
- My business intelligence team is working closely with our marketing and commercial teams to identify opportunities to innovate in our product offering. For example, they have developed a tool which allows us to predict what food and drink products will over-index at a future arena event (based on the demographics of customers who have purchased tickets for that event and point of sale data from previous events). That is helping us to tailor our product offering and in-venue marketing on an event-by-event basis.
- We have launched a project to deliver mobile apps for all of our European venues, which will provide customers with the options of presenting their ticket on their smartphone at the arena entrance, electronically transferring tickets they have bought to others in their party, and purchasing food and drink to be delivered to them at their seat.
- We supported our European marketing teams by running a tender for a new multichannel campaign management tool to take us beyond conventional communications with customers via email, and allow us to communicate with customers via proximity marketing, SMS, Wi-Fi, web personalisation and highly personalised email. The goal of our new CRM strategy is to get the right message to the right person at the best time and via the most appropriate channel for them.
How have you delivered cultural and behavioural change as a CIO within the IT department and/or more broadly across the organisation?
With a team that is spread over multiple sites and countries, great communication is absolutely vital. I regularly travel from London to Paris, Stockholm, Hamburg and Berlin to meet with business leaders and IT team members. I have a regular 'Friday email' to the European IT team to keep them up to date on projects and highlight individual successes, a weekly operational conference call for the whole team, and monthly lunches with members of the team.
In the wider organisation, I have worked closely with our SVP of HR to deliver technology solutions which support collaboration and feedback across our European businesses, including a multilingual intranet, instant messaging and videoconferencing, and an online employee recognition solution.
How have you worked with your CEO and/or board to communicate whatever ‘digital’ and IT means to your organisation/sector and improve digital literacy at the highest levels of the organisation?
In May 2015, I led an IT strategy development project, which included interviews and workshops attended by leaders from across our European businesses, from the CEO down. Two key digital initiatives were identified in that strategy: a programme of customer-facing technology projects, and a focus on data and business intelligence.
I am a member of the European senior management team, and regularly update that group on our progress against our digital strategy, including presentations and workshops at our management away days.
The proof of this is in the commitments that our business is making in this area, including multimillion-pound investments in venue Wi-Fi and digital signage, mobile apps, business intelligence, digital marketing and big data projects.
How have you worked with the technology and IT vendor market to achieve your business goals? How have you been able to influence IT suppliers and successfully manage your partnerships/relationships with large IT companies, SMEs and startups?
I work very closely with AEG global partnerships, which is the division of our business which oversees sponsorship sales, servicing and activation throughout the world. Many of our major suppliers are also sponsors, and we therefore enjoy close relationships with them and are able to influence their product roadmap.
- A large IT supplier: Cisco. Cisco is a global partner of AEG. In Europe, all our venues are powered by a Cisco network, and we have installed or are planning to install Cisco ConnectedStadium Wi-Fi and Cisco StadiumVision solutions in a number of our venues. I have a strong relationship with the management team of the Cisco sports and entertainment solutions group, and we have worked with Cisco to help it develop the roadmap of these products. In addition, Cisco has used AEG venues in case studies, and I have hosted and spoken at Cisco customer events.
- A startup: LiveStyled. LiveStyled has developed a mobile app platform, and was the clear frontrunner when we ran our tender in 2016 for a European mobile app platform. AEG has become a key strategic customer for the company, and we are working collaboratively with it to develop a roadmap for its products, so that AEG’s venue mobile apps can lead the market.
How have you tried to develop the diversity of your team?
My team is naturally international, with staff based in five European cities, and a high number of foreign nationals working in the London head office. We drive better cultural and business understanding through staff working on projects in different locations. It is important to me that this is not just staff from the London head office travelling to our other business locations. For example, in 2016, one of our Stockholm team members led a major network refresh project in our arena in Hamburg.
As in many technology teams, women are underrepresented. With a low staff turnover rate in the last few years, not many opportunities have presented themselves to address this imbalance.
Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
I frequently remind my team that we should not refer to our colleagues in the business as ‘customers’ (this is a trait that is all too common in IT departments the world over). Our customers are the people who come to our concerts and festivals, who organise events in our venues, who are fans of our sports teams, or who travel on our boats.
My team works across Europe, and delivers IT services and projects for 15 different business units. At AEG, we empower our business leaders with a high degree of autonomy, and this leads to a highly motivated leadership team and strong financial results. However, the combination of geographical distance and business autonomy can make it more challenging to agree and prioritise IT projects.
We therefore have a defined programme management methodology in place, where my team works with businesses to define the scope and business case for projects; new projects are then presented to a quarterly IT project board, chaired by our European COO. Once projects are approved, they are scheduled on a rolling 12-month project programme, which is reported against at the end of each month.
We also have quarterly IT service delivery meetings, where I and my management team meet with each business unit to review their IT projects and initiatives, to identify any issues or risks, and to plan for the future.
By regularly meeting with and communicating with business senior leadership, we ensure that the IT aligns effectively with business strategy and operations.
What strategic technology deals have you made in the last year and who are your main suppliers and IT partners?
We have major combined sponsorship and supply partnerships in place with Telefónica O2, Tele2, Ericsson, Toshiba, Cisco and Arxes Tolina, and in the last 12 months my team has worked with these partners to deliver major digital and venue technology projects. These include with:
- Telefónica O2 and Cisco to deliver a high-density ConnectedStadium Wi-Fi solution in the Avenue at the O2;
- Ericsson to deliver a high-density Wi-Fi solution in the Ericsson Globe in advance of the Eurovision song contest;
- Toshiba to deliver digital signage and point of sale hardware at the O2 arena and Mercedes-Benz Arena; and
- Cisco and Arxes Tolina to refresh the network at the Barclaycard Arena.
In addition, we are collaborating closely with our naming rights partners, Telefónica O2, Tele2 and SSE, on the development of venue apps in London and Stockholm, and with payment and banking partners such as American Express and Barclays to deliver contactless and mobile app payment solutions in our arenas and at our festivals.
Outside of our sponsorship agreements, we have strategic technology relationships with:
- LiveStyled, who are developing our mobile app solutions;
- Salesforce, DEG and Carbonhouse, with whom we are working to develop our digital marketing and CRM strategy;
- Oracle and Verteda, who supply us with point of sales solutions; and
- Palo Alto, Cylance and Qualys, with whom we are working to drive forward our IT security strategy.
What are your key strategic aims for next year?
My Venue Technology and Digital teams will deliver the following customer-facing technology initiatives in support of our digital strategy:
- Customer-facing Cisco ConnectedStadium Wi-Fi projects at the SSE Arena, Wembley, the Mercedes-Benz Arena and Barclaycard Arena;
- Digital signage projects at the Mercedes-Benz Arena and Barclaycard Arena; and
- New mobile apps in all of our European arenas and for the Eisbären ice hockey team to enhance our customer database and drive in-venue marketing and e-commerce.
My business intelligence team will work with venue marketing teams and our partners Salesforce and DEG to develop and plan a new digital marketing strategy that will see us evolve away from a focus on email newsletters to greater user of proximity marketing (via our mobile app, venue Wi-Fi and SMS), and highly targeted communications based on customer profiles, demographics and past behaviour.
I will recruit a director of information security and three additional staff to support our IT security programme, and we will deliver compliance with 45 critical security controls that our parent company has asked us to prioritise, and complete PCI-DSS compliance in all of our European businesses.
How are you preparing for any impacts Brexit might have on your organisation?
AEG is a global enterprise, and we already have businesses inside and outside of the European Union. This therefore puts us in a strong position to understand where there may be challenges for us in the future as the UK moves to leave the EU.
There are three areas where I am currently focusing:
- Exchange rate impact: Our business is headquartered in Los Angeles, and our budgets and financial reports are presented in US dollars. In addition, many of the IT services and products we buy are also priced in dollars. The fall in the value of the pound (and to a lesser extent the Euro) has put budgets under pressure, and will continue to do so.
- Data protection: The UK will be subject to the EU general data protection regulation when it goes live next May, but how data protection law with evolve in the UK after Brexit is still unclear. Working for a global business, I am used to dealing with varying data protection regimes. We have a number of situations where we (or our suppliers) export personal data from Europe to the US, and contractual arrangements for this are increasingly complex, and will probably become more so post-Brexit.
- Staff retention: Approximately 20% of the IT staff team in the UK are EU nationals, so I am watching with interest how the government addresses the issue of EU nationals in the UK.
When did you start your current role?
August 2011. I joined AEG in January 2008 as director of IT, UK, and was promoted to the European role in 2011.
What is your reporting line?
Report to the COO and CFO, Europe
Are you a member of the executive leadership?
Are you a member of the board of directors?
What other emerging roles does your organisation have and what is their relationship to you?
Director of digital – reports to me.
How often do you meet with your organisation’s CEO or equivalent?
How many people at your organisation does your function supply services to?
750 staff, millions of customers.
What percentage of your budget is operational spend (ie keeping the lights on) and how much new development (ie innovation, R&D, exploratory IT)?
About 25% innovation, 75% operational.
Rank the following sources of advice/information in order of importance:
- Industry bodies
- CIO peers
- Analyst houses
Has your organisation detected a cyber intrusion in the last 12 months?
Are you expecting an increase in budget specific to security in order to tackle the cyber threat?
Does your organisation have a designated security professional – CISO or otherwise – and what is their relationship to you?
Director of information security currently being hired – will report to me.
Are you finding it difficult to recruit the talent you need to drive transformation?
Has recruitment and retention risen up your agenda as a CIO?
Does your IT organisation operate an apprenticeship scheme?
How many employees are there in your IT team?
Are you increasing your headcount or planning to bring skills and the ability to react to needs in-house?
Which technologies or areas are you expecting to be investing in over the next year?
- data analytics/business intelligence
- devices (mobile)
- devices (desktop)
Which technologies or areas are you expecting to be investing in over the next one to three years?
- data analytics/business intelligence
- devices (mobile)
- devices (desktop)
What emerging technologies are you investigating or expect to have a big impact on your sector or organisation?
Our venues are already impacted by the internet of things. In a typical arena, a wide variety of devices, including cameras, building plant, sensors and security systems are all connected to our network. I anticipate this growing significantly.
We are also exploring the opportunities for artificial intelligence to enhance the way we handle data. For example, we are looking at a queue measurement technology that will apply AI to camera feeds.
Does your organisation do a significant amount of trade with the EU?
Does your department include technology staff from the EU?
Are you or have you been looking to the EU to recruit key skills?