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By Mike Buck, Director at BJSS
Picture the scene: with five minutes to go of the last game of the season, your favourite team is behind. You’ve placed a big bet on them winning but it’s not looking good. You then log-on to your betting website to cash out, only to find that everyone has had the same bright idea and that the website has crashed meaning you miss your chance.
Stories such as this occur during nearly every high-profile sporting event. Take, for example, the Cheltenham. Bookies typically take in £200m over the course of the festival, but the load created by the army of punters logging in to view the latest odds, and then placing their bets, often leads to many online services timing out and crashing altogether.
This is a common issue where you have fluctuating levels of demand over short periods. When you dynamically update content in real-time, the complexity becomes even greater. To help mitigate against this risk and the possibility of losing valuable revenue opportunities, bookmakers need to keep on top of their technology stacks to ensure they provide the most resilient service possible.
Thanks to advances in Open Source software, Agile delivery techniques, the Cloud and Big Data, enterprise-scale software projects need not be as resource-intensive or unpredictable as they used to be. Having worked extensively with several of the UK’s largest bookmakers, we have outlined four key pointers that you should keep in mind when reviewing your technology offerings.
While there might be a temptation to deploy commercial “off-the-shelf” products, they don’t necessarily provide the best long-term outcome.
Open Source provides a viable alternative to commercial packages, delivering significant capital and operational cost-savings whilst eliminating vendor lock-in.
Other benefits include the opportunity for customisation and better support for open standards, both of which help improve interoperability with other systems. Openness can also lead to better security thanks to more responsive support from active developer communities when new security concerns are discovered.
In a bookmaking environment, where odds are constantly changing, and where products are continuously tweaked, Agile delivery techniques makes perfect sense. Agile accelerates delivery processes, and through an on-going course of planning and feedback, ensures that value is maximised.
In our experience, bookmaking organisations want answers to three questions before they embark on expensive IT projects: What will be delivered? When will it be delivered? How much it will cost? The truth is that Agile is often riddled with uncertainty, providing woolly answers to these questions.
Our delivery approach takes the best of Agile, but eradicates technical and functional risk early in the project. Called ‘Enterprise Agile’, it measures risk from the outset, while also promoting early and continuous testing. This results in a tailored delivery approach that is suited to the project’s unique goals.
The public Cloud provides the flexibility required to accommodate spikes in demand seen during popular sporting events. It is cost effective, reliable, and crucially – it enables the team to focus entirely on improving their product.
One of the most important benefits of Cloud is that it delivers cost-effective scalability and enhanced performance. With services like AWS effectively providing a “data centre in a box”, there is no longer any reason make costly capital investments in data centre infrastructure. Put simply: you benefit from the latest technology, and you pay for only what you consume.
Data improves business effectiveness and outcomes, and if used correctly, will generate value across the entire organisation. In a bookmaking environment, the typical use case for Big Data and Data Science is to calculate odds, but our clients also use it to track user journeys and behaviour.
Others use analytics for external data sources, such as social media and geolocation data, too. These sources provide richer business intelligence, allowing bookmakers to understand changing sentiment amongst sports fans, and to tweak their products to appeal to these sentiments.
With an online gambling sector worth over £3.6bn, companies are constantly attempting to increase market share by offering an improved customer experience. By working through these pointers above any business will be able to build a service that is agile enough to create scalable efficiencies and, most importantly, attract customers.