Betting CTOs – Tech leadership faces tough choices to accommodate a brave new world 

Adjusting business operations and core systems for unprecedented working conditions, no other betting c-level position has felt more pressure and scrutiny than the CTO.

Opening the ‘Innovation and Technology’ track on day two of SBC Summit Barcelona – Digital, tech experts and leading betting operators underlined that following an adjustment period, the industry faces a myriad of new variables beyond 2020 events.

Aris Dimarakis CTO of a newly reorganised Kaizen Group, vibrantly detailed the high-pressure scenario that COVID-19 lockdown brought upon tech leadership.

“I think we can all agree that it has been a challenging period, having to support operations whilst transitioning company networks to allow our employees to work from home,” he said.

Leading Kaizen’s product roadmap, Dimarakis states that COVID-19 has ‘disrupted everything but changed nothing’.

He added: “Personally, it has been more of a managerial challenge, as I have had to oversee a team of 200 working remotely to ensure that we can maintain our long-term company projects.”

Grigory Bakunov, VP of Technology at Parimatch, agreed with Dimarakis’ observations on the ‘pandemic being more of a human challenge’. Prior to lockdown, Parimatch had initiated a platform upgrade, marked as a key 2020 project for the CIS market betting group’s ambitious growth plans.

As an engineering veteran, Bakunov stated that he would previously describe changing tech platforms as ‘the equivalent of changing shoes halfway through a race’.

However, Bakunov relayed strange developments as Parimatch players have openly and constructively responded to platform changes, helping tech and product teams enhance their roadmaps:  “The players were bored and willing to help, so I told my team to ask the consumer,” he said. 

The panel was then probed on whether ‘CTOs had to adopt a wartime approach to managing the situation’.

Pierluigi Chiusolo, CTO of Italian betting group Stanleybet, replied that a pandemic was no place for knee-jerk reactions. Leading Stanleybet’s retail and digital platforms, Chiusolo emphasised that his focus was on breaking team silos between tech and operational counterparts.

He said: “It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions, but we have had to support all line managers with a deeper understanding of our language and what we do. In normal times tech teams can function alone and work independently, but we have been forced to open our teams.” 

Closing discussions, the panel was asked the prudent question of how they are preparing their teams and platforms to potentially face the ‘worst case scenario of a further global lockdown’.  

Filip Berlikowski, CTO Genesis Global, believed that on the whole, online gambling firms have demonstrated ‘their adaptability in being able to shift customers to alternative products, which are not just casino games’.

Berlikowski advised incumbents to prepare for future unknown dynamics by revising internal processes to help operational teams reduce manual work with automated processes. 

He concluded: “A second lockdown is not the worst scenario. The worst scenario is that your players play elsewhere and don’t return as you have nothing to offer, that is what you have to fix.”

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SBC Summit Barcelona – Digital is a FREE to attend virtual conference and exhibition running from 8-11 September. To register for your free ticket or find out more please visit – https://sbcevents.com/sbc-summit-barcelona-digital/

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