Cricket Australia's digital ambition to bring fans and communities closer to the game

Cricket Australia announces HCL Technologies as its new digital technology partner in order to ramp up its digital strategy across fans and communities

From left: HCL's Swapan Johri and Arthur Filip with Cricket Australia's Kevin Roberts
From left: HCL's Swapan Johri and Arthur Filip with Cricket Australia's Kevin Roberts

Cricket Australia’s decision to appoint HCL Technologies as its new digital technology partner is about providing a more engaging experience bringing fans, communities, supporters and staff even closer to the game, its technology chief says.

This week, Cricket Australia confirmed a multi-year partnership with HCL to spearhead its next-generation digital ambitions. The deal sees HCL implementing its ‘scale digital’ methodology across the national cricket governing body’s efforts to utilise digital capability, with a particular focus on public-facing digital properties.

It’s an approach based around a digital ecosystem encompassing modular, auto-scalable, data-driven and experience-centric components, the IT services provider said. HCL replaces Accenture as Cricket Australia’s digital partner.

Cricket Australia GM technology, Mike Osborne, told CMO the group has been on a digital journey for the last five years, kicking off with the launch of its digital media business. Eighteen months ago, the sporting body launched a refreshed digital strategy as a way of revving up its digital ambitions and begin looking forward.

“Given the scope and scale of what we want to achieve, it was imperative we found a partner that helps us achieve that - a flexible, highly skilled organisation that takes us to the next level,” Osborne said.

In announcing the partnership with HCL, Cricket Australia CEO, Kevin Roberts, said it was time to take the next step in digital.

“Cricket is rapidly evolving here and overseas, and part of that evolution involves advancements in technology and the digital landscape,” he said.

Such digital activity for Cricket Australia falls into three big buckets. The first is from a fan perspective and involves using digital technology to enhance experiences as consumers watch, attend and engage with the game of cricket.

“Where we have made huge progress is with our media properties, and ability to share news and content about the teams, through to app match experiences, and using mobile to enhance how a how fan experience a day at the cricket. We now have ambitions to bring the game even closer to fans,” Osborne said.

The second is inspiring communities, with a key emphasis on grassroots sports. Cricket Australia looking to bring more digital capability into the junior cricket area via its platform to better engage participants, supporters and volunteers.

“It’s about how we make that experience as seamless as possible, and find efficiencies to allow volunteers to spend less time in the back office doing all the compliance checks and admin to run a cricket club, and more time teaching kids,” Osborne said.  

Cricket Australia’s third priority area is bringing technology to the working life of off-field and playing staff.

Through the new partnership, HCL will be deeply engaged in the fan and participation space, driving public-facing capabilities and products. For example, HCL will manage and enhance Cricket Australia’s live app, all APIs, MyCricket platform, all state and big bash websites, the core and digital platforms, as well as community-oriented sites, and

The rigorous tender process concluding in HCL’s appointment stemmed from work done 18 months ago to tweak Cricket Australia’s digital approach, Osborne continued. This also saw the group bring on more internal capability in architecture and technical domains.

“Having gone through that, we wanted to relook at our partnerships and make sure we had the right partners for the next 4-5 years of our journey,” he said. “We wanted a partner that was technically and culturally in alignment with our purpose to drive us forward.”  

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Osborne thanked CA’s previous partner, Accenture, for its work to this point. “Accenture did a great of job building the assets we have today, so we have nothing but thanks for that hard work over the past five years,” he said.  

Alongside partners, Cricket Australia in recent years brought together nine small IT shops across states and territories into one consolidated IT operation. Cricket Australia also has a team responsible for fan engagement, formed more than a year ago with a mission to engage fans at matches, as the group puts on events, via marketing, and across digital properties.

“We’re still on that journey of getting more agile in our delivery, and we could do a better job of making technology, digital, IT and communications all engaged in delivery,” Osborne said. “There’s more to come as we continue to build our delivery capability and get better at an agile digital delivery model.”  

Meanwhile, short-term milestones with HCL “aren’t sexy”, Osborne said, and won’t be things fans see directly, but are nevertheless important. These include modernising platforms and architecture.

“We’re looking forward to taking our data platforms and API infrastructure to the next level, which will enable a lot of amazing things in the years to come. Some of it is bedding down ways of working and the core architecture,” he said.

“Above and beyond, we have a big focus on junior cricket, and how we can deliver to the community Web platforms that better connect volunteers to each other to share knowledge and better connect them to advice and give guidance. It’s a key priority in the next 12 months to provide these products to that critical part of our cricket community.”

Measuring success

Measures of success are varied. One Osborne highlighted is an efficiency metric measuring the time Cricket Australia can save people through digital platforms. Another is about understanding the fans, and using those insights to make their lives easier and better, while a third is broadening reach across segments.

“We have done a terrific job of delivering content and services to core cricket fans; how do we broaden that reach to other that will engage in the game but may not be as absolutely loyal,” he said.

Commenting on the partnership HCL’s CMO, Arthur Filip, said the significant deal builds on the key aspects of the IT consulting group’s offering helping enterprises transform digitally.

“It also builds on a recent heritage for us around the world around sports partnerships and working with sports organisations,” he told CMO. Among these are Manchester United, which reaches 690 million fans globally, and the Volvo Ocean Race.

“We are going to help CA take its digital platforms to the next level,” Filip said. “We will bring our tech and digital expertise to the table; they’ve got the sport. There are 2.5 billion people globally attracted to cricket, including an online annual audience of 20 million fans. We want to grow the love of the game and see future generations understand that passion and game.

“We can’t tell customers the code to cracking their business – they will have their own strategy – but we can absolutely stand with them as their partner to help them transform. It’s not just the front-end tech, it’s the digital workspace and foundation underneath; it’s being agile and lean in their core operations.”

The customer data vision

Like many organisations, the data and customer journey mapping informing Cricket Australia’s fan and community engagement efforts is another work in progress. The group has invested in a customer data platform (CDP) to create a golden record for customers, allowing the marketing team to do some direct marketing.

Under the new technology partnership, HCL will be supporting this platform as well as ensuring all systems data is feeding in to the group’s view.

“There is another entire level to get to with our data,” Osborne commented. “In our environment, our fans are with us hopefully for their lifetime. They go from a journey being an entry-level cricketer, to taking their grandchildren to a Boxing Day test match. How we track that lifecycle and changes over time is a fundamental challenge for us.

“Understanding those identities and connecting it together is key. We will continue a program of work to get to the level of truly understanding if someone is an umpire or participating in junior programs, but is also a member of one of our clubs, or ticket purchaser at an international – it’s getting that depth of the relationships to make things easier for them really.”

Complementing this is research and work focused on improving the experience from intent to purchase, getting to the stadium, watching a match and coming home.

“A lot of what we learnt is talking to fans is it’s about information - what can I bring to the stadium on any given day, where are the toilets, where are my seats. So we’ve done a lot with the app for match day,” Osborne explained. “So a lot of our recent work has been on that education and information, and tailoring our app.”

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