Name: Kate RomanovaTitle: Former Chief information officerCompany: Greyhound Racing VictoriaCommenced role: March 2021, finished up role June 2023Reporting line: CEOMember of the executive team: YesTechnology Function: 53 staff, 5 direct reports
With data generated by daily multisite racing enabling wagering revenue, Greyhound Racing Victoria’s (GRV) core systems and data offerings need to be stable, secure, and current.
Recruited to uplift the regulatory body’s technology function in 2021, CIO Kate Romanova has helped move GRV’s technology 20 years forward in under two years.
“We have gone from Windows 2003 servers to AI and robotic process automation (RPA), in a blockchain-enabled architecture,” Romanova tells CIO Australia.
“We have turned things around by implementing an innovation ecosystem. More than an innovation lab, the innovation ecosystem represents a holistic and systemic approach to delivering successful innovation that is both tangible and measurable.”
One such innovation delivered in the past two years has been using AI tools such as ChatGPT and Copilot to accelerate its development activities.
“Using AI in this way has enabled us to write more systems in the last 24 months than in the previous seven years,” says Romanova.
“This has delivered a 46 per cent increase in productivity and a 95 per cent reduction in legacy code issues. We use ChatGPT to write test scripts, enabling us to generate far more comprehensive scripts and include more edge cases, for a 97 per cent resource cost saving and substantially accelerated deployment timelines.”
Blockchain for data integrity and auditability
Meanwhile, Romanova and her team has supported revenue generation for GRV by consolidating raw data from disparate sources, including standard race day data, as well as from IoT and industrial control system (ICS) sources such as penetrometers and racetrack cameras, via Azure-based cloud infrastructure.
“We have implemented a blockchain for data integrity and auditability and work has commenced on uplifting the data lake to a lake house model,” says Romanova.
The data architecture has enabled integration opportunities not only for GRV’s systems but also for its partners, delivering up-to-date and reliable data on demand.
“Sitting behind tokenised security, it enables users to incorporate data into any system that can call an API, including our wagering partners who can use this expanded dataset for enhanced revenue generation,” Romanova says.
“We have optimised for analytics, scale, and self-service and ease of use, enabling further innovations via digitisation and digitalisation.
“Previously, for example, monthly reporting was highly manual, taking four resources approximately three weeks. The streamlined process using Azure Data Platform now delivers self-service reporting and fuller analytics at the push of a button.”
The organisation’s new contact centre currently being implemented is also integrated with its data platform, and customer records will be able to be used to funnel calls to the right department, as will paperless forms also under development.
Many of these recent innovations have origins in the technology teams own interests. As part of ongoing digital transformation work, the team was encouraged to work on passion projects and explore innovative ways of deploying newer technologies.
This included investigating blockchain and even out of hours utilisation of ChatGPT for Dungeons and Dragons campaign plans.
This has enabled knowledge sharing and has helped GRV use newer technologies in ways that, at the time, were relatively unique, says Romanova.
Underpinning this was the innovation ecosystem that will continue to deliver success long-term – providing it is maintained, she adds.
“It informs everything we do, including ensuring any system we build can be used both on its own to perform a single task and also in conjunction with other components to accomplish a more complex task,” says Romanova.
“Each component can be utilised, not just by specific applications, but across the architecture making it highly flexible, and cost effective to maintain and modify. This has enabled us to maintain high availability, resulting in 100 per cent uptime for customer interface endpoints over the financial year, up from 95 per cent meaning 18 more days available a year.”
Meanwhile, reducing the number of applications used has decreased operating costs by about 20 per cent over the past 24 months. And project delivery success increased from 11 per cent at the beginning of her tenure, to 100%.
The technology team has also been able to retain staff during a “red-hot” market – both because it can offer greenfields development in business-critical systems and because team members are encouraged to explore interesting avenues such as AI and machine learning, says Romanova.
This is a stark change from when Romanova arrived at GRV.
“The reputation of the technology function was not optimal. There was a legacy of undelivered, costly, projects. This was exacerbated by there being virtually no transparency around technology activities or spend,” she says.
“Everything – including procurement – was done in an ad hoc and non-transparent manner, so challenges with delivery and costs were not visible, resulting in a stigma being attached to the technology team.”
Desire to engage
To help the technology team become more involved in strategic design and decision making, Romanova created mechanisms for transparency to all levels of the business. Plus, she developed a digital strategy, incorporating cybersecurity, core systems, and data and BI roadmaps.
“But these would have been of little value if the team and I could not demonstrate our capability and our desire to engage more broadly across the organisation and add value to strategic conversations,” says Romanova.
So, she instituted formal and informal conversations with key areas, including finance, procurement, and legal, to build trust and agree operational processes. This worked, and slowly the perception of the technology team improved.
“We have gained a reputation for speedy efficient delivery. Technology successes are well recognised due to our strong delivery record.”
Louis van Wyk