Q&A with Dan Smith | Lead Technology Consultant
Name: Dan Smith
Role: Lead Technology Consultant
Time at PTI: April 2019 to present
Dan is an experienced Technology Consultant with a successful history of working in the sports industry. Skilled in Operations Management, Sales, IT Strategy, Private Clouds, and Data Center, Daniel is also a strong program and project management professional.
At PTI Consulting, Dan delivers CTOaaS to Norwich City Football Club – to whom PTI are the Official Strategy Advisory Partner.
How have your first few months of working with Norwich City been? Has there been some key technology projects delivered to coincide with the club now back in the Premier League?
I’ve been at Norwich City FC since the end of April and I work alongside the IT team in an advisory capacity, blending consultancy with project management in the role. We are helping the club to prepare for life in the Premier League and adjust to the level of infrastructure readiness which that requires. Several projects have been needed to get up to speed, so with the increased investment in the infrastructure, this has been a great opportunity to get a lot of the systems up to date and up to the required specification. This meant upgrades to the network infrastructure and switching capacity to make sure the club can cope with the increased usage of the Premier League requirements.
Also, making sure we’ve got the optimal connectivity across the stadium has been key. This involved implementing a tactical, though not insignificant, Wi-Fi implementation to provide additional capacity and capability around some specific areas across the stadium. The Premier League requirements mean that the club has to offer a robust, well-managed internet provision across key areas across the ground. This means the pitch line, dugouts, tunnel, and in around the home and away changing areas. Also, to improve the service and experience offered to our customers and to meet the ever-growing demand for devices to be connected to the internet, there was an additional need for the corporate hospitality areas to have improved Wi-Fi infrastructure installed.
So, this was part of the tactical implementation across the ground and providing robust connectivity in key areas. Then we have the wider strategic piece which we are working on in the background. We are looking at the bigger connectivity picture, part of which would be the provision of Wi-Fi access throughout the bowl, allowing fans to digitally engage with the club from anywhere within the stadium and open up further opportunities to help with fan engagement, food & beverage purchasing and retail merchandising. The goal is to provide a complete fan solution for connectivity, which will be a big step on from the limited Wi-Fi connectivity from last season.
What other projects have been crucial to deliver before the season kick-off?
One of the other projects we have undertaken is a complete replacement of the EPOS system, which has seen a full deployment of 150 till points across the ground for both catering and retail functions. The rollouts have now gone through a full testing procedure. It has been quite a few years since the system was last updated and with a change of technology provider, it’ll make a big difference across the board for retail and hospitality. Cashless capabilities have been greatly expanded and are available across all tills, with the drive to increase the usage of this across the ground and make that transaction quicker and easier for the fans, drive revenues and ultimately reduce the overheads as a result of cash management, for example.
We have also upgraded our connectivity backhaul i.e. our internet bandwidth and have a full high-availability failover capability from the primary to the secondary. There are several requirements that Premier League stipulate for how your bandwidth is to be carved up, so this would be for the likes of the press or the various other partners who need dedicated bandwidth. With the new upgraded primary bandwidth to 1Gbps and a secondary failover of 1Gbps, this means we have been able to implement all the Premier League requirements now and we can assign the right bandwidth across the relevant partners accordingly (up to 750Mbps of the 1Gbps).
How have you been able to understand what the technology requirements across the different departments and gain visibility of their project roadmap?
The trick is to ensure you are deep enough inside those other departments and have established strong relationships, to have good visibility of the upcoming projects and provide guidance right from the start.
We have been helping upgrades across the operation, including server upgrades, an Office 365 migration and upgrades of the PC estate. One of the most valuable things we have done is to create an organised involvement with the heads of each of the department and host a monthly governance meeting across operations, commercial, marketing, finance to name a few departments. This allows us to be involved in the early stages of discussions around their requirements for other providers and partnerships that they want to expand out. A perfect example of this came up recently where one of the providers of a player tracking system (additional to the Premier League one) was scoping out an upgrade of the system which involved the implementation of additional cameras across the ground and the need for physical infrastructure, such as fibre /copper cabling, comms room space and the impact on power provision and cooling requirements…however, none of those costs had been factored in to the ‘free’ upgrade to the latest environment.
So, with these new governance meetings, we are involved very early on and can push the technology impact of new projects to the top of the agenda. It is very exciting to have that involvement across the club and that PTI is seen as part of the solution from the start. It’s also been very positive that the club has been refreshingly welcoming and open to change, which helps immensely with our ability to be effective!
If you would like to chat about CTOaaS then you can email Dan at Dan@pticonsulting.co.uk