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Cricket Australia hits a six with Microsoft Teams

Remaining one of the world’s leading cricketing nations takes commitment and community. Cricket Australia is transforming nationally, using Microsoft cloud, Office 365 and Teams to promote collaboration, communications and foster innovation down to the grass roots of the sport.

Forty players wielding bats, spinning balls – coaches weaving among them offering advice. It could be a top tier cricket team anywhere in the world.

What distinguishes the high-performance training session in Tasmania is the trial of coaches wearing headsets that capture all their advice and commentary and cameras are set up to collect stills and video for future review.

It’s just one way Cricket Australia is using Microsoft Teams to help boost results. By being able to capture all the on-field content in Teams, share it, comment on it, and refine it, coaches and players are hoping that there will be fresh insights they can benefit from that might otherwise have been overlooked during the physical training session.

It’s precisely that sort of high performance innovation that Cricket Australia wants to foster, according to Grant Godwin, collaboration manager.

To encourage nationwide collaboration and communication, Cricket Australia has made Teams available – but it isn’t prescribing how it’s used. “We will give you a guideline, but you are as responsible for innovation as we are. That’s a great example from Tasmania,” says Godwin.

Microsoft Teams has over the last 18 months percolated throughout Australian Cricket, creating a collaboration and communication mesh that binds the different geographies that make up the organisation into a truly national organisation.

(Teams has)…Transformed how we work and who we are as a team. Our tech team has the highest engagement score for our business. Teams gave us the ability to communicate, work together and build relationships even when we have never met one another – Emma Cashen, senior adoption and training specialist and acting corporate services manager, Cricket Australia.

Out of the Ashes

The transformation of Australian Cricket traces back to 2011, when off the back of a 3-1 loss in the Ashes, the body held a review which provided clear recommendations about the need to work effectively as a national body, and to promote high performance training opportunities.

Cricket needed to work better together. Made up of the governing body in Cricket Australia and eight member State/Territory associations, the Australian cricket family were connected by a wide area network – but there were also nine email servers, nine active directory domains and while there was a team of 11 IT staff at Cricket Australia headquarters, there were other IT personnel corralled in their respective State or Territory. The concept of OneTeam was born and Australian Cricket embarked on a journey of collaboration.

Murray Newham, senior manager of cloud platform and architecture for Cricket Australia, explains that migrating to the cloud, deploying Office 365 and embracing Microsoft Team, has transformed the way that the organisation operates, establishing a truly national information ecosystem that nurtures a more cohesive approach to cricket across Australia.

Delivering business, consumer, and community systems through Microsoft Azure and having recently shut down the organisation’s managed data centre means that everyone, everywhere is on the same page.

Getting buy in from all participants was critical to the success of the information systems strategy. Ahead of the digital transformation a steering committee was formed, engaging leaders from all the States and Territories, and nationalised the technology team. While the IT team would still be spread over the country – it would act as one integrated team.

With the steering committee committed to the transformation it was full steam ahead, with Microsoft Teams deployed first for the newly nationalised IT team to ensure seamless communication and collaboration.

“This demonstrates that we have appetite to innovate. It has given us as a tech team, and to the organisation, the tools so that we can be cutting edge,” says Newham.

Godwin adds that the combination of Office 365, cloud-based telecommunications and Teams has revolutionised the way Cricket Australia works by establishing; “The entire ecosystem that helps people work nationally, from a coffee shop, home, or work flexibly and pick the kids up from school.”

If the cloud is the backbone of the transformation, the central nervous system is Microsoft Teams. In the initial deployment with the national technology team, Teams quickly proved itself as “a way for us to share information easily, chat quickly – the persistent chat is a much better piece of functionality for us, and we were excited how we could run meetings –with easy access to camera settings,” says Godwin.

During this initial phase Cricket Australia also learned about the governance that needed to be put in place to ensure Teams operated efficiently and effectively, ensuring that multiple Teams weren’t created for the same project. With training and experience, Teams quickly embedded itself as the communications and collaboration platform of choice – with 40 Teams being established across the technology group.

Then Teams went viral.

Spike in demand

The word had got out across Australian Cricket that there was a new collaboration and communication platform being used by the technology team, and everyone else wanted it. All 1,200 of them wanted it.

Technology had decided from the outset that the way to make Teams work was to devolve management and ownership of the tool to the business units. Yes, the technology team would be there to support users but ownership of the platform lay with the business.

it’s their environment, they determine who has permissions to access content, who is invited into the Team, how it is used.

Godwin says that distinction was important in order to drive the innovation that Cricket Australia wanted to see across the organisation, and at the same time it freed up the IT team for other work.

Godwin is also looking at other Microsoft technologies such as the Surface Hub 2 which could be deployed in offices to create “huddle spaces” so that information can be easily shared.

Teams transformed

Emma Cashen, senior adoption and training specialist and acting corporate services manager, is clearly passionate about the potential of Teams. “We have the best technology in the universe and ability to deliver cricket like nothing else.”

For Cricket Australia’s national technology group, Teams has; “Transformed how we work and who we are as a team. Our tech team had one of the highest engagement scores in the organisation. Teams gave us the ability to communicate, work together and build relationships even when we have never met one another.

“It enables you to break down the barriers – there’s no need to fly across the world or across the country… the decisions can be made faster if we are not waiting for those planes.”

Cashen is committed to ensuring all Cricket Australia staff are primed with the right information about how to seize greatest advantage from Teams.

When the national IT unit kicked off Cricket Australia’s use of Teams it set an ambitious target – to have 80 per cent of communications and networking for the technology team be conducted in Teams.

“The way we got around that was that we would go to a conference, bring it back in Teams, get a ticket for an IT issue, bring it into Teams,” says Cashen, noting that in short order 40 Teams sprang up across the IT unit for projects that needed to be delivered.

By the time it was ready to launch Teams enterprise-wide, the word was out.

In just one year, the company has approximately 380 Teams sites created.

“It has changed the way we work nationally,” says Cashen.

But it remains an environment flexible enough to tackle Australian Cricket’s unique makeup. Yes, it’s a national body, but it’s made up of separate entities such as the state cricket bodies; ; “And they work together but there’s some healthy competition there as well. ” she says. Microsoft Teams can cope.

Closer to home Teams is also being used to drive communication and collaboration through community cricket which is also transforming into a truly national group.

From his vantage point Grant Godwin believes that Australian Cricket has only just begun its Teams transformation noting that it the richly featured tool that is; “Easy to learn, difficult to master.”

There is still enormous potential in the tool that is yet to be unleashed.

Long term though, he expects that all of Australian cricket’s work will be conducted in Teams – on and off the field.