‘Shift Happens’ about the Digital Revolution in Lotteries, by Neil Brocklehurst

By Neil Brocklehurst, Director at Camelot Global

Lean Lottery Advert 2016

 We are in the midst of a digital revolution. This revolution stretches beyond the boundaries of technology – your organisation, its culture, and processes are all impacted by it. For a heavily regulated industry which has barely needed to change its core product offering for decades, this change can be daunting. In the face of this challenge we must prepare ourselves for what lies ahead and accept the fact that: Shift Happens.

 But where does this shift take us? And could the digital revolution really permeate all areas of your lottery? We believe so. Drawing upon our experience of agile in the context of lottery, we wanted to share our idea of how agile might look for you – and why it’s a good thing for you and your lottery.

 The digital world changes quickly – a fact which bears both opportunity and challenge. To ensure success in this space our organisations, people and processes must be empowered to respond to the demands and expectations of digital players. In the process of creating a digital-ready organisation, practices such as “lean” and “agile” will no longer just be buzzwords but will likely become a part of your lottery’s DNA. And, although parts of these concepts have already been embraced by the software development industry, in reality they apply to your entire organisation.

 The common delivery technique used in our industry is known as the “waterfall methodology”. In a project following waterfall methodology, several months are spent documenting every possible feature believed to be required for the entire project. The next phase of the project will then require several more months to build against those requirements, then more time will be spent testing the build. Then, finally, after much time has passed, the launch date arrives. This comes at great expense to the lottery and, although the end product will have many features, few – if any – of them will have any in-market testing to prove their worth. Not only does this mean time and money may have been wasted in building redundant or outdated features – lotteries and players are deprived of the chance to interact with one another whilst they wait for the feature-filled product to be ready for launch. This delays the point at which lotteries can begin generating money for good causes. The risks of the lengthy and expensive product development cycles usually associated with waterfall methodology, which have no guarantee of success, should not be forced upon lotteries. There is an alternative!

 The alternative, a clear contrast to waterfall methodology, is to use agile methodology. Using such a delivery method breaks projects down into multiple, regular, and smaller iterations, giving the opportunity to bring products to market more quickly and to develop a product in-line with player expectations and feedback.

 For example, if one were to employ an agile methodology to building an iLottery presence, this could begin with building a results checker first. Then, within a matter of weeks, a store locator could be added to the offering. With each market-informed and market-tested iteration, your growing iLottery channel can regularly boast more and more features: the ability to purchase draw tickets, to scan tickets, to play Instant Win Games, and more. Not only does this method allow lotteries to avoid the risks of lengthy product development cycles, it allows your lottery to be more responsive to the market and to build your iLottery platform with the newest technologies available.

 A key aspect of agile is the need to move to a culture which is prepared to test and learn to deliver updates quickly and iteratively. In the digital world, with a competitor landscape of ever evolving products, this philosophy is all the more pertinent as it helps to ensure that products are responsive to customer feedback. This means your product teams can focus on the improvements which really matter. This will ultimately reduce time and cost of delivery, and will more reliably inform the future direction of your products – and your lottery.

 In addition to increasing efficiency, decreasing waste, and helping you to create the best product possible, adopting agile principles can also help to remove the burden of trying to predict the future – an impossible task given the fast changing demands of the digital sector and, indeed, our players. Rather than forcing you to plan and predict product roadmaps which span years (as waterfall methodology often requires you to do), agile methodologies empower you to execute on your long term strategy through making rapid iterations and being able to react to change, giving you more control over the direction and success of your products.

 Compare this approach with the current waterfall methodology used by many in the industry, and the change you could be facing may not seem so daunting after all!

 Creating products that live on and continue to evolve rapidly after their initial launch is a considerable shift in thinking for some lotteries whose core products have barely needed to change for decades. This approach can require changes in how your teams are organised and empowered to deliver their objectives. And, indeed, the objectives themselves may even change!  Lotteries can accelerate their adoption of agile methodology by starting to build teams which, rather than being brought together to deliver a project, become domain experts centred around a product, or family of products. The product team’s objective is then to ensure the continued success of theproduct, not the project. To work effectively, these teams are usually cross-functional so as to operate with enough autonomy to use their in-depth product and market knowledge to pre-empt and react to change without the need to wait for the next big release,  or the next board meeting.

 Although change is often a source of great angst for lotteries, with a digital revolution already upon us this change is inevitable and one we can prepare for. The way in which the digital revolution is embraced is up to the individual lottery, but it need never be feared and should never be avoided – there are numerous small steps we can take to prepare ourselves. We can even apply agile methodology to our move into the digital world; seeing the transition itself as many small projects – baby steps – rather than one mammoth challenge. The digital world does not bring a crisis; it gives us an opportunity. It’s an opportunity for us to learn, and for teams to grow. It’s an opportunity for your lottery to excel in our digital world. We just need to embrace the fact that: Shift Happens. And we can deal with it.