One of the big successes in 2017 for Sean Harley, Chief Information Officer at exhibitions and festivals specialist Ascential, arose from a setback.

When a show in Berlin the previous year suffered a number of hiccups which affected exhibitors and the organising team, Harley and his team were consulted as part of the review of the event to understand how the situation had unravelled. Their proposal was to develop a single view of a show. With shows hosting thousands of exhibitors and tens of thousands of visitors typically mounted by multiple teams that work independently, this was a lot harder than it sounds. The solution from Harley and his team was the Wrike software platform. A lot of training and rapid lesson learning later, and its implementation has firmly reattached the exhibition wheels.

Using a clever combination of partners, process and technology, Harley's team built out an ecosystem to support a product launch in 2017 that was Ascential's first foray into e-commerce and logistics. This went from concept to launch in six months, capturing significant time and cost savings by avoiding a full-blown ERP platform. The mix of agency and in-house resources used allowed him to retain much more knowledge of the platform build than would be the typical case when resource returns to its agency at the end of a project.

Harley's driving of segmentation and cluster analysis of data has allowed high-value business clusters and growth areas to be identified and exploited. One example is the deployment of iBeacon wearables to manage over 2,500 speakers and 500 VIPs at 18 events in 2017. The system connects with an internal application, Bluetooth tracking boxes and a cloud-based back-end that allows for real-time reporting. Behavioural monitoring based on the iBeacon data has improved the accuracy with which the exhibitions team can identify where people are and so offer a frictionless meet and greet service to key groups.

Other ongoing initiatives include moving the business away from spreadsheets, documents and disparate systems to a coherent solution that systematises and automates processes, and improves operating efficiencies.

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