by Byron Connolly

CIO50 2017 #26-50: Ivan Ortiz, UBET

Nov 21, 2017
Technology Industry

Over the past year, Ivan Ortiz has been integral to the creation of a new Tatts Group wagering brand, UBET. The project involved transforming all aspects of the organisation’s core wagering systems, as well as customer-facing products services covering digital and retail assets.

As CIO, Ortiz’s first job was to lead the wagering technology team through a transformation process, setting the thinking, as well as putting the processes and technology capabilities in place to support UBET.

“We worked on building a flat leadership structure with four key strengths: product, engineering, portfolio and delivery,” he says. “As a result, we have invested heavily in building leadership skills to all team leaders and entrusting them to become personal ambassadors in decision making and through communication to their teams or business partners,” says Ortiz.

UBET has also moved from unpredictable technology releases to frequent “value adding drops” in production. The team has also invested in continuous integration, quality and automation initiatives, and adopting agile practices, he says.

“Moving to this way of working has been a challenging task given that we are driving a large team of more than 80 people including staff and contractors,” says Ortiz.

“We work in close collaboration with wagering business unit and we aim to erase the traditional boundary between technology and business in favour of creating a ‘one team’ mentality.”

During this transformation, Ortiz was responsible for ensuring that UBET had a mix of people with the right skills and business knowledge. In some cases, this involved upskilling long-term team members and engaging other experts.

Largest project in wagering

This transformation project is the largest in the history of Tatts Group’s wagering business. Although much of the technology infrastructure in wagering has been in place for the past 15 years, the team has worked hard to make core systems more efficient.

“We have reduced release cycles from quarterly to monthly while working under heavy regulations and a quota of legacy technology. As a result we have had no emergency releases to fix issues with our systems since 2015,” Ortiz says.

Betting app innovations

Another significant achievement over the past 12 months has been the introduction of the UBET app. The app includes ‘Mystery Bets and Betshare’ features enable users to share betting tips with friends, or receive them via SMS, Twitter, Facebook or email.

Multi Builder is another feature which provides the ability to rapidly sort and create multi bets by sport, time or price. The app also offers a search capability that enables punters to rapidly find their favourite jockey, driver, trainer, runner or events.

Earlier this year, the organisation also launched an augmented reality app called Coaster Tennis – a tennis game that runs on a low cost beer coaster that customers interact with in a retail environment. The app also enables UBET to collect customer information to build its CRM database.

This project is largely aimed at giving technology team members the chance to explore new technologies while providing the opportunity to test the concept on real customers, says Ortiz.

“We took a lean product development approach to creating the app with a small team consisting of a product manager, tech strategist and two developers,” says Ortiz.

“We set some basic guidelines in October 2016. The team had to test a new technology, test with a small sample of customers, align the idea to our wagering strategy and aim to go live for the Australian Open finals in January 2017. The team were then left to come up with the idea themselves and the magic really happened.

“This project has given us the opportunity to explore how our customers respond to new technologies and understand the place of emerging technologies in our industry. There were, as always, challenges to overcome throughout this experience, in particular resistance from people in the wagering business unit who would prefer resources to be focused more on business-as-usual work. But the project was hugely successful for the team.”

A matter of trust

Ortiz says the key to success when working in a team is to trust each other.

“It doesn’t matter how well thought out your plans are or how much data you have backing up your product proposal, nothing will happen without a team. If you don’t let others improve on your vision and your plans, you will end up with a mediocre job that only satisfies you,” he says.

Ortiz says he has seen many teams broken through lack of trust where leaders default to managing a team by making everyone miserable and being asked to do a lot more work than they should just so the manager can have things their way.

“I build teams on the basis of trust and that’s a lot more fun and rewarding,” he says.

Byron Connolly