by Jennifer O'Brien

Former Tourism Australia CIO Jason Flynn reflects on time at govt agency

Jul 18, 2019
Artificial IntelligenceAugmented RealityBig Data

Former Tourism Australia CIO Jason Flynn – now settled into the partner CTO tech strategy role at Microsoft – said he left the government agency to get closer to the “next wave of transformational technology” coming to market.

He’s returning to his roots, having worked at Microsoft for ten years prior to accepting the CIO post at Tourism Australia almost two years ago. During his ten years at Microsoft, Flynn was the enterprise mobility and security lead, as well as the lead technology strategist.

“Having worked at Microsoft before, I was excited at the prospect of working with Microsoft’s partners to bring new solutions to market in AI, data, cyber-security etc – and hopefully provide some unique value and perspectives based on my time at Tourism Australia,” he told CIO Australia.

It’s believed Shaune Rosser has taken over for Flynn as the new CIO of Tourism Australia. Rosser was formerly the CIO of the Sydney Motorway Corporation. He was named in the CIO50 2017 list.

Asked some of Flynn’s biggest milestones while at Tourism Australia, he said an obvious achievement was the Dundee Super Bowl campaign.

“We had to prepare our digital services and infrastructure to not only provide an amazing experience on the day, but to scale our platform to meet the demands forecast to be in the millions of potential concurrent hits on the site due to the commercial airing.

“And we had to do it all in secret, as the ‘reveal’ of the fake-movie trailers as a tourism commercial was key. When I first was brought into the loop on the campaign, the question was – how much traffic are we expecting, and how many concurrent hits can we handle today? Both unknowns at the time, and a Super Bowl commercial has a potential to reach more than 110 million people when it airs.

“I looked up all the examples of sites that failed to cope with the call to action of a Super Bowl commercial airing, and we worked on a mantra that that we would not suffer the same fate come Super Bowl Sunday.

He said he put a project in place to scale, test, and scale. “In parallel, we were building new digital experiences (social sign in, custom maps) into the site for the launch so it was a massive undertaking – all in four months from concept to delivery.”

He said he worked with a great team, who worked exceptionally hard to ensure things ran smoothly.

“When the commercial aired and we were in the ‘war room’ watching the traffic spike, ready to jump on the slightest issue, the dial kept going north and no-one needed to do anything – it all ‘just worked.’”

At that point, he said everyone was looking at him for direction, asking ‘now what?’

“I said, ‘That’s it – all the hard work paid off – since no one is running around with their hair on fire, it means we got the job done.’

“Reputationally for Tourism Australia – with such an enormous investment in something like the Super Bowl, and the preceding ‘fake’ movie trailers, it was critical that our digital environments performed on the world stage, and I’m happy to say it did.”

He said other achievements include the implementation of cyber-security controls and risk management processes, including GDPR compliance in the EU – what he called a “fairly enormous undertaking” – plus driving the Digital Services tender to appoint a new agency to work with Tourism Australia on its customer facing digital experiences in the future.