by Divina Paredes

CIO50 2019 #26-50: Dianna Taylor, New Zealand Racing Board

Mar 28, 2019
Business ContinuityCloud ComputingInnovation

This year, the New Zealand Racing Board launched a new Fixed Odds Betting Platform.

For Dianna Taylor, General Manager Technology at NZRB, this project had a bigger impact than other tech-enabled initiatives.

We used this programme to move the technology teams and business units to an agile delivery and DevOps operating model post ‘go live’, she says.

“Working on this project forced us to improve our level of collaboration, delivery cadence and decision-making significantly,” she adds.

“We now have a common language, developed some robust product ownership capabilities, associated disciplines and a backlog management framework that can all be carried in to business as usual.”

Taylor explains the programme came about because the organisation wanted to offer customers an increased ability to bet on events and options that their current systems did not previously deliver.

The new betting platform, which also includes a Single Page App (SPA), allows NZRB to offer customers an increased ability to bet on events ‘in play’ across many disciplines that they did not previously offer.

She says NZRB already had two failed attempts to develop this platform.

“What made this successful was that we have entered into a partnership with two world class proprietary betting companies,” says Taylor.

“This had been a business-led program and with a good mix of technology and external contractors working collaboratively together to deliver.”

The Single Page App means they no longer have to maintain multiple web and mobile applications. We can make changes in the SPA once, so it lowers the development, operating and support costs, and simplifies our technology, she states.

She says the move to the DevOps operating model also reduced the number of direct reports to the CIO. We provide greater levels of autonomy to the teams to expedite decision making.

“Whilst this isn’t ‘unique’ it has genuinely improved our agility and speed to deliver and reduced unnecessary bureaucracy,” she says.

A different lens

As CIO, Taylor heads up the Technology Board sub committee. In this role she works closely with the Chair to ensure the Board is kept up to date not only about strategic technology initiatives, but also potential risks and their mitigants that the Board could come across in their governance capacity.

She prepares a summary of the performance of her team and their service providers for the monthly executive leadership team meeting and the ‘all of business’ live broadcast to all staff. She also presents this to the quarterly Technology Board sub committee.

“Technology is expected to always be on and operating, and to ensure this is the case requires a lot of work behind the scenes,” she says,

“My teams deserve the praise for ensuring our performance over the last two years has been a marked improvement on previous years and the amount of change has doubled.”

Taylor is the only permanent female executive on the NZRB’s executive leadership team.

“I feel a great deal of responsibility to bring a different lens, share my views, accept others and challenge our thinking to ensure we include diverse opinions, not only within our group but through allowing others to contribute.”

She sponsored the creation of the D I (diversity and inclusion) working group, which is now led by the HR team. This group includes a cross section of the organisation and reflects the diversity of NZRB staff.

Taylor also mentors and coaches outside of NZRB. However within NZRB, she is an avid supporter of ‘reverse mentoring’ or what is now commonly called ‘upward mentoring’.

“I always use the ‘GROW’ model to frame the conversations as I find it simple and extremely helpful and have found the external people I work with find it equally helpful.”

She says she takes the time to share her leadership insights to a wider group because, “We all have a responsibility to be role models and lead everyday.”

Taylor says over the past year she has pushed herself to be more active in external events, and develop a stronger network as part of her responsibility to build a positive female CIO role model.

“I share my career story, lessons learned and development areas as it shows that no matter what title I have, I am human too and still developing,” she says.

At the same time, she is also adamant that ignoring or tolerating poor behaviour only reinforces to others that this is okay.

Taylor says she has a huge capacity to understand change and delivery, which may sometimes overwhelm or intimidate others.

Over the years, she has learned to become resilient while working in a fast-paced technology-enabled environment.

“Pace yourself” and “you don’t need to own everything” are key phrases she has learned to apply to herself as she works through a raft of programmes.

She says a recent example of how she did this was when she was asked to work on the PCI (Payment Card Industry) certification project for NZRB.

“I was asked to pick this up from a colleague based on my previous experience,” she says. They had an inflexible date to deliver and needed to achieve 100 per cent compliance in order to maintain NZRB’s ability to transact using credit cards, a critical source of funding for the business.

“When I took this project on we were 6 per cent compliant, and had six months to submit our compliance attestation to Visa,” she says.

She pulled together a great project team, including service providers and external Qualified Security Assessors to help them develop their plan and implement the necessary recommendations and controls to meet regulatory requirements.

The project was successful and she was seen as the ‘delivery-focused’ executive. She was invited to attend all their strategic steering committee meetings. Her accountabilities increased to now include running the PMO office.

“My colleagues know they can rely on me to lead across the board,” she says.

“This can be taxing and not fulfilling emotionally, so I have learned to be purposeful about what I commit to and how much I give to others in order to ensure my team also get the care and attention they deserve.”