CIO to CEO: Wayne Pickup of NZ Lotteries
When Lotteries recently upgraded its website and did away with Bull the Bullseye guy there were scores of complaints. Mind you, “When we had him there were complaints, too,” says CEO Wayne Pickup. The difference is that, unlike many commercial organisations, Lotteries is responsive to consumer feedback, so Bull is about to be reinstated.
In person, Pickup exhibits a youthful enthusiasm you might expect from someone heading an organisation that deals in dream fulfilment. But there’s nothing frivolous about his business outlook. “My remit is to develop this business but to do it in a socially responsible way and we take that extremely seriously.”
Having gone from Lotteries CIO to one of its suppliers and then to return as CEO, Pickup has a unique insight into a variety of roles in the gaming industry. He says CIOs are uniquely well-positioned to understand business processes, and this was valuable to him in his B2B role.
“Because CIOs have to support the systems and technology, they’ve got to know how the place ticks.”
Pickup’s number one tip to CIOs moving towards a CIO-plus role is simply to get involved in the rest of the business. “I was in a CIO role a bit by chance, really – I don’t have a technology background although I ended up in technology – and that was one of the reasons I decided to go into a B2B or vendor-type role because I could take the lessons I’d learned as CIO and use them in a commercial, customer-facing way.”
Related article: NZ Lotteries is number 49 in the 2012 MIS100 report of the top IT using organisations in New Zealand.
Head of dream fulfilment
The cornerstone of New Zealand Lotteries’ business is retail and, like many retail businesses, it found discretionary spend dwindling with the global financial crisis. The instant tickets are those most susceptible to retail fluctuations; meanwhile, its large jackpotting games, Powerball and Big Wednesday, remain relatively robust.
“At the core of our proposition is the ability to win a fairly significant and life-changing amount of money and we need to ensure we keep that optimism and sense of ‘winnability’ alive.”
As a transactional business Lotteries has a great deal of customer information at its disposal. There’s a risk of becoming blinded by this ostensibly static data. Although he had only been in the CEO role for around three-and-a-half months at the time of our interview, Pickup is taking a keen interest in bringing this data to life — especially its “outliers” and irregularities. “Some parts of New Zealand are completely outperforming other parts of New Zealand by product and there’s no rhyme or reason why. The trick is to start building some hypotheses around that.”
Checking the numbers
While digital still makes up only around 5 percent of total sales, some of Lotteries’ smaller products are becoming increasingly popular via its online and mobile platforms. Big Wednesday has relatively higher digital than retail ticket sales. “That seems pretty logical because midweek more people are time-poor. We’re pretty much a Saturday proposition for most people.”
Everyone has an opinion about changing that through marketing, and again he has a tricky balance to strike around advertising. “I am relatively hands-on with the marketing team, but it’s more about planning. Marketing, for me, is cause and effect: you do something, you measure it. If it worked you do it again, if it didn’t you adapt.”
He’s not alone in wondering whether businesses are getting value for money from the expensive interactive advertising campaigns that are currently the fashion. “I don’t think anyone knows. There’s definitely a shift to digital and you can see that in the media spend data that’s published but it’s nowhere near the extent to which it is in the UK and some other countries. Every agency in Auckland has an opinion on it and every agency in Auckland can help you!”
This demands a creative approach to hold the public’s attention. Pickup benchmarks the business against other international lotteries; particularly in Australia, Canada, the UK and Ireland.
He also closely watches the New Zealand retail sector — especially major supermarket chains. “Nearly half of our sales now are through Foodstuffs and Progressive, so the performance of their business has a significant bearing on how we’re doing.”
The next wave
Although Lotteries has now had an internet presence for almost five years, Pickup says it’s yet to be fully exploited. “I want to make sure we’re ready for the next wave, which will be the mobile channel.”
The business driver for both Lotteries’ recent website rebuild and making its products more accessible via both Android and Apple smartphones was ongoing relevance to consumers. He studies closely the efforts of gaming operators such as Betfair and in particular William Hill, whose annual mobile revenue growth has been increasing significantly. Now that around half of all New Zealand mobile users have a smartphone, ensuring its products were accessible to a variety of devices was “common sense”.
He’s equally clear-minded about permitting Lotteries staff members to express their own device preferences. For this CEO it’s not a matter of simply deciding whether a device is supportable but rather whether it improves productivity.
“You need to balance that with your internal controls. A lot of people here have personal iPads to access their email. It’s not surprising people don’t want to have multiple devices.”
Sales reps will soon be equipped with iPads so they can take retailers through their performance, showing how they’re tracking against others.
“They’re on the road all day, and an iPad is not only light and easy but you don’t have to boot it up, you turn it on and the information’s there. I would rather provide our staff with the tools they need — unless they have their own devices they want to use.”
Although research and modelling is undertaken to evaluate whether Lotteries’ products continue to suit the market, Pickup says consumers don’t embrace change as readily as business people do, so core games aren’t often tweaked.
“We’re the proverbial mass-market product and you’d be surprised at how many letters we receive when we change.”
The global data at Pickup’s disposal suggests he has more chance of ensuring the organisation remains successful than most consumers have of predicting the winning numbers.
At a glance: Wayne Pickup, CEO, Lotteries NZ
Tertiary subjects: Marketing, psychology
Résumé : Pickup “fell into IT” while working for Carter Holt Harvey. The forest products company needed someone young and enthusiastic for its ambitious SAP project and he threw his hat in the ring. Following his tenure as Lotteries CIO, he worked for four years in senior management roles with gaming technology and services company GTECH in Australia and Europe. “We had two functions, one was a straight technology, software-type function the other a range of services.”
Mentor/influence: Carl Bergstrom (now chief executive of Frucor Group). “I was three or four years out of university and he was very insights-driven – he wanted to make informed decisions.”
Key qualities: Planning, ambition, energy, organisation.
More CIO to CEO stories:
Sir Ralph Norris as ‘Undercover boss’
A merged CEO and CIO role
Rob Fyfe: Flight path to CEO
Doctor in the house
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