Game On! Aristocrat cashes in on IT projects

With several multi-million dollar IT projects running concurrently and a headquarters relocation thrown in, 2009 was a busy year for Aristocrat CIO Angelo Grasso. Good project governance and short project timeframes, Grasso says, helped Aristocrat’s IT organisation to act as an enabler and ensure success.

Based in Sydney, Aristocrat is a multinational gaming technology company that exports to the world. Last year Aristocrat moved its headquarters across Sydney and opened an office in India.

During that time Grasso identified the need to manage HR, technology and infrastructure better. So in addition to a move of its Sydney headquarters and a new office in India, a self-service HR system and a new unified communications system for VoIP and videoconferencing (using Microsoft’s OCS 2007) were added to Artistocrat’s IT project plate. Add to that an enterprise mobility strategy with Wi-Fi across the company as a standard option and technology from Citrix and BlackBerry for mobile access to applications and 2009 was a very busy year indeed for Aristocrat’s IT team.

Grasso likes to have clear targets for projects and prefers to work to short timeframes of only six months. “We needed to get things done in the quickest manner while managing risk,” he says. “Five-year strategies are too long.”

Regarding the HR implementation, Grasso says it was all about the ROI. “It had to be sold on business value and tangible benefits,” he says. “There were some tangible benefits, but we developed the business case by addressing the pain points.”

“HR needed a self-service component because when a new person came into the company, the question was: who put the data in?”

After three changes from what was originally foreseen, the HR system went live in August 2009. Self-service components, like career planning, are currently being deployed.

The self-service component is designed to be used by HR managers and employees themselves, which Grasso says is helping the HR functions to be more strategic within the organisation. “The bad processes no longer exist,” he says. “We had data on spreadsheets that would get old quickly. Now we have a single source for employee data.”

Integration of HR with the corporate Active Directory is also a feature that can be used to help manage employee access to systems and applications. Back in 1998 Aristocrat implemented PeopleSoft’s payroll software, but the HR component never went live.

Fast forward 10 years and Oracle has long acquired PeopleSoft, and despite an existing relationship, Aristocrat went to market for a HR application vendor.

Aristocrat looked at seven options for the application, and whittled the shortlist down to two vendors. In the end Oracle won the deal. “Our relationship with Oracle was disregarded to maintain objectivity,” Grasso says.

The payroll project took three months and went live in early November. Internal IT was the enabler and Oracle services provider Tripoint provided support and advice. “Governance is very important and we also needed ‘health checks’ throughout the project,” Grasso says. “Three-quarters of the way through the project the executive sponsor changed, but we were on a path of best practice.”

Aristocrat has also consolidated numerous disparate server rooms across multiple sites into two data centres. “We have moved data centres four times since I started and the business didn’t feel any change,” Grasso says.

Grasso is quite bullish about virtualisation as between 70 and 80 per cent of the company’s infrastructure is now virtualised. “You now need a good reason not to deploy something in a virtual environment,” he says.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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