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After the Open, Tennis Australia CIO shoots for winning IT

After the Open, Tennis Australia CIO shoots for winning IT

SaaS, wireless and skills all important directions

The Australian Open crowd around Rod Laver Arena - showtime for Tennis Australia IT

The Australian Open crowd around Rod Laver Arena - showtime for Tennis Australia IT

“There are various things you can't buy software for,” he said. “We have internal software developers and we are looking at what we can use SaaS for, but I have also asked developers to look at Web services which has been good.”

Yates, who reports directly to the CEO, wants to be in control of core systems, but use third-party software where it makes sense.

“This year we outsourced HR and time management to BigRedSky and are using iFocus for online e-learning,” Yates said.

Tennis Australia's long-time partnership with IBM for IT services during the Australian Open is an example of this selective procurement philosophy.

“For the Open I don't need that infrastructure all year [so] it's software as a service,” Yates said, adding the whole system has become more portable with the advent of blade servers.

“We are not permanently set up here [Melbourne Park] so we have to take everything out as we are in temporary accommodation.”

Another big project will be the relaunch of Tennis Australia's membership system, which is still under an NDA with negotiating vendors.

“That will be the membership system for tennis players Australia-wide and will go down to the individual at a social level.”

A membership system like this also affords the option of a self-service portal and other services.

Unwiring the future

Another key technology directive for Tennis Australia is wireless networking, which has to be deployed selectively due to the nature of its flagship site at Melbourne Park.

“Grand Slams show off technology, but there still has to be a business case for it all,” Yates said.

As reported in Computerworld, Tennis Australia considered blanketing the Melbourne Park site with Wi-Fi as far back as 2005, but natural reflectors of radio waves made it impractical.

The problem persists today.

“Wi-Fi is a popular one,” Yates said. “But with heat resistance, solar radiation, and TV broadcasters there is interference.”

Journalists and photographers get Wi-Fi access, and so does the players lounge, so wireless remains in “strategically picked” areas.

“For Internet access across the site we prefer to go with cable,” Yates said. “3G is also good, but no matter what you are on you will get interference.”

The same goes for RFID, which could possibly be used to streamline visitor access and ticket scanning.

“We'd love to roll it out but it's not our number one priory,” Yates said. “For RFID to be financially viable it needs to be run year-round. So it's still wish-list sort of stuff.”

“We need to have a good business case for it and I have to show a cost justification.”

A new generation of IT skills

To ensure Tennis Australia has access to the skills it will need to keep IT at the forefront of its business, it runs a student intern program, which Yates believes should be done by more IT departments.

“People in IT should be doing more to groom people for IT roles,” he said. “We take first- and second-year university students for at least two weeks in the year. When they discover they have learned more in two months than four years of uni they are even more enthused about IT.

Yates believes this generation of IT leaders are not mentoring young people enough.

“It is an impetus that has to grow within the older IT community,” he said.

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Tags outsourcingTennis AustraliaWi-FiRFID

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