By Siva Saravanan, VP- IT, Aristocrat [ASX:ALL]
1. How has your IT operating model changed during the last five years for the Media and Entertainment Industry?
Gaming and entertainment in general are highly competitive markets where creating differentiators is increasingly a challenge, especially to keep people engaged. Gone are the days when people sat in front of slot machines, consoles, or their laptops and played simple games of chance requiring minimal skill: today they are looking to be entertained, to interact more with the content.
In turn, this means creating gaming content that is far more complex and that leads to several requirements for a company like ours. First, you need to find top talent and we’ve done that with our creative studios around the world. Second, you need to find more efficient ways to handle the extremely large data sets that these games now require, across globally distributed development. There’s a fine balance between keeping control over all those elements and making sure that new games or incremental releases get out to market as quickly as possible, against making sure that creative talent is given the freedom they need to be innovative and imaginative.
For us, our Digital Asset Management (DAM) strategy is pivotal in achieving that, enabling us to make the latest version of a game in development available to everyone globally, far more quickly, while allowing teams to carry on with their existing workflows and tools. It’s given everyone a ‘single source of truth’ for all digital media assets and source code, across both technical and creative teams, with a global level of control, but customizable at local studio level.
Less time is spent looking for the right version of a file, the risk of working on an outdated media asset is removed, and we can protect the brand and Intellectual Property (IP). It helps us to be more efficient in migrating product content between gaming segments and reduce digital asset time between sites, so we can work faster and re-use content better.
2. What do you think are the biggest obstacles that technologists face in working in a more agile and outcomes based model?
For an effective agile working model, architectural framework and standards needs to be in place for the practitioners to adopt for the delivery. But, with the rapid change in business landscape that technologists need to keep up to add value, having a long term architectural framework defeats the purpose. It’s a double edged sword in my opinion. Change is the constant. With so many disruptors, roadmap set six to nine months ago needs to be relooked at as well.
“ IT leaders should position themselves to identify areas where technology can bring in value to business, instead of waiting for the call "
3. Moving from traditional IT to a service offering model requires a major mindset shift in IT. How did you make that happen?
Keeping the lights on by IT is long gone, business needs to and should take it for granted. How can IT enable the business—be it process efficiency, reduction in lead times (product development, manufacturing, fulfilment, customer response), margin improvements or direct impact to revenue growth. Everyone part of IT needs to understand the business, its mechanics and external customers and become part of the business. That requires education and willingness to move out of comfort zone to learn, not just new technologies but business as well. I tell my team, business does not care about what the technical solution is, they care about what value that brings to them. We have even set grammar to define project title and description to show the value, it starts there.
It is a work in progress, but IT team needs to become part of business at every level. To get there, IT personnel need to cross train across business functions.
4. What set of skills do you think are required for the technology leaders to be successful in the new enterprise landscape?
I strongly believe if there is one critical skill the current technology leaders’ need—that will be to understand the business to become a strategic partner with your business peers—is the knowledge about deploying technology to enable the business strategically. IT leaders should position themselves to identify areas where technology can bring in value to business, instead of waiting for the call. The leaders should aim to leverage technology for mitigating complexity in business.
5. Which growing or future technology innovation are you personally excited about in the Media and Entertainment industry?
The gaming and entertainment sectors face big challenges, but there are opportunities as well. While growth may be slowing down in some areas, the demographic playing games is broadening, particularly with the increasing adoption of mobile play. Moreover, innovation around physical gaming—including AR and VR—is creating exciting new possibilities. The focus needs to be on maintaining that high level of creative vision and reacting to the market in an agile way, while increasing efficiency, productivity and keeping control over production costs.
We are all dealing with technology every day. How does technology drive your life?
It may seem like a contradiction, but I am very picky about what technology I let into my personal life. I am purist of some sort. I try real hard not to let tech drive me, except of basics, but I know it is slipping away for all good reasons. Technology does enable me to be more productive with my personal hobbies though. For instance, I could create the experience one would get from an IMAX theatre in my own home without ten stories tall screen.