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Oregon lottery revamps IT in a win for customers

Deloitte on Cloud Blog

Leaders in Oregon are prioritizing customer-centricity as they implement a new IT operating model and ramp up their digital gaming efforts, among other initiatives.

December 11, 2019

US state lotteries have long served up games to customers at gas stations, restaurants, and other brick-and-mortar establishments, raising much-needed revenues to fund schools, parks, and other public priorities. However, the rise of digital gaming, changing customer demographics and preferences, and rapidly emerging digital technologies inspired leaders at the Oregon Lottery to adopt a customer-focused mindset and establish a digital-first, cloud-enabled IT organization steeped in research and analytics.

“Business and technology drivers are disrupting IT’s traditional operating model, which was built to support legacy incarnations of the gaming business,” says Oregon Lottery CIO Syed Hussain, who has been with the state since 2011. “Just like any good business, the lottery’s IT organization needs to understand how our products reach different customers and engage them accordingly.”

In addition to the rise of digital gaming, a judicial decision last year paved the way for individual states to pass statutes that would legalize sports betting, creating additional opportunities for state lotteries in the gaming market, Hussain adds.

In response to these developments, Oregon Lottery’s IT organization created a new operating model intended to meet continually changing business requirements well into the future. The move reflects a desire to reinvent the organization with speed and agility and to better identify and engage with customers—in the marketplace and internally. “As CIO, I have the opportunity and the responsibility to align IT strategy with these business goals,” Hussain says.

Placing Bets on Agile, Cloud, Analytics

Historically, Oregon Lottery’s IT department was a waterfall shop. “It was a very long way of going to market, but it aligned with the nature of the traditional lottery products and our people were fine-tuned to it,” Hussain says. “Now, using digital technologies, we intend to operate in an Agile way, testing certain features and functions and course-correcting as we go.”

In tandem with this rapid delivery model, Oregon Lottery is using the cloud to great effect. “The cloud fundamentally changes IT’s value proposition to the business,” Hussain says. Not only can the cloud enable business innovation, making the organization less dependent on a small set of business and technology providers, but it can also allow the lottery to scale quickly and go to market faster, rather than devoting time to procuring the servers and expertise needed to build on-site infrastructure, he says.

IT is also partnering with the business to create an enterprise information management platform in the cloud. As a result, “We have access to better data analytics and research,” Hussain says. IT will provide that team with data warehousing and integration capabilities to enhance information quality, which ultimately helps Hussain’s team, and his business counterparts, to better understand what their customers want and need.

The ultimate goal is to transform Oregon Lottery into a data-driven organization, creating better customer experiences aligned with their preferences, using information-based insights and actions to promote socially responsible gaming, and implementing real-time cloud platform scalability with improved security and compliance based on customer usage, among other initiatives, he says.

Partnering With the Business

The transformation has grown out of broad partnerships between IT and the business, starting with Hussain’s close alignment with the Oregon Lottery’s corporate affairs officer, who oversees marketing, products, and PR, among other areas. “This partnership means that IT doesn’t need to own every piece of technology or every decision related to it,” he says.

For example, the digital marketing arm led the way earlier this year in creating an app that lets users scan a ticket to determine if they have won a prize. “It used to take years to deliver something like that to the market, but this was done in just a few months,” Hussain says. His team partnered to help deliver the app, creating an internal buzz about the increasingly adaptive IT department in the process.

Looking ahead, Hussain says his team is heavily focused on internal customers and wants to better segment IT help desk users to further improve IT service delivery and to introduce more IT self-provisioning capabilities. “We make sure we understand our customers’ journeys and personas so IT can design the appropriate solutions depending on the channel and delivery method,” he says.

IT is looking to build a center of excellence that will monitor performance, consumption, and workloads in the cloud. Additionally, IT will partner with the business on a center of excellence that supports business innovation and improves productivity. It also plans to create an IT vendor management office to align with the state’s other strategic sourcing efforts and capture additional value from providers.

Through these efforts, Oregon Lottery has become far more customer-centric. “We’ve experienced a big shift from a very risk-adverse organization to one that takes chances to create value for our customers—both marketplace and internal—above all else,” he says.

The team’s work has required significant stakeholder management; educating other C-suite members was key to obtaining funding and support for the transformation. “IT leaders can’t create IT strategy, transform an operating model, or initiate digital transformation in a vacuum,” Hussain says. “As a CIO, it’s important to focus on enabling organizational strategy, which centers on knowing and understanding customers. That’s the key to business success.”

This article first appeared on the WSJ.

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