Done well, fun is a serious business.
Many of us grew up with Timezone; then we grew up some more and took the family to Zone Bowling for birthday parties. The first Timezone was established over 40 years ago and from there an international business grew and flourished.
For The Entertainment and Education Group (TEEG) delivering consumer fun is a business now spanning 280 family entertainment centres in seven countries across Asia Pacific. It is now one of the world’s largest family entertainment centre groups.
As the business grew over the years, so did the data collection and information systems – but there was no consistency. Different businesses, different outlets ran different platforms and data was siloed and hard to reach.
TEEG understood that there was enormous value in the data – if it could understand guests better, it could meet – even anticipate – their needs.
John Boyd is TEEG’s chief information officer who joined the organisation with a clear digital transformation mandate and determination to be data driven.
Boyd has rolled out a group-wide information platform that will grow with the business, provide the data that executives and around 4,000 employees need to make the best decisions, as well as inject the agility the enterprise can rely on to succeed over the decades ahead.
As Boyd says; “We had all the pieces of puzzle there, we just needed to bring them together.” It was a heck of a puzzle though – for example across Asia Pacific TEEG had JDE, MYOB, PeopleSoft and SAP running finances – and this caused significant challenges for consolidation of data at a Group level.
It was a similar patchwork of data collections at store level and CRMs across the group.
Boyd explains; “The source of data is the source of truth. Our Business Intelligence system became the primary system that we worked on first. The plan was that the BI system would supply not only the business information but feed information through to the finance system and feed through the CRM system so that each of the systems was using one set of numbers.”
It was, he quips, ERP by stealth, with Microsoft solutions deployed one at a time. “As we grew, each particular piece of the Microsoft puzzle was actually working extremely well because those are ultimately designed to work with each other, which was another significant advantage, particularly as we were determined to transition within a very tight timeframe”.
It took Boyd and his team of 17, supported by Microsoft Partners, Professional Advantage, Microchannel and Wardy IT, six months to effect the bulk of the transformation. Today TEEG has Office 365, Dynamics 365 CRM Customer Engagement and Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations deployed, with business analytics and most servers operating in Microsoft Azure.
”On the front end we are trying to support the business mantra to spread happiness and create memorable moments for our guests. And so, the CEO said to me, that we needed to truly understand our guests, by tracking all touchpoints to ensure we deliver a unique experience that ultimately provides value to each and every guest visit,” Boyd explains. “This reinforces one of our core values in the business which is to be “guest obsessed”.
“Our store layouts are also based on data as we track the number of times a game is played as well as revenue by game, and both of these metrics impact where games are physically placed in our stores. Our data also shows which games are played more frequently when placed with other specific game types or attractions”. Boyd also has a rich array of information services to support the Zone Bowling and KingPin outlets which offer laser tag, bowling, food and beverage, cocktails; as well as supporting TEEG’s child focused play and education businesses across the region.
“It’s really about recognising and rewarding our guests by understanding frequency of visits, the games they play, the average spend patterns and length of stay and then aligning the systems to ensure that the guest sees value in the time spent in store” says Boyd. “This focus on value to our guests is only possible with the data captured through Dynamics 365.”
With the foundations in place he says there is now the opportunity to tackle; “The exciting project which is the deep data analysis. If somebody comes into the store and they’re playing Halo, wouldn’t be great as they were walking at the store, in real time to send them a message to say, ‘Hey the new Halo 2 game has just arrived and here is a one-off offer to recognise your gold status’.
“That’s when we started considering Azure Data Factory, Databricks, Advanced Analysis, and also looking at a bit more cutting-edge technologies. It’s data science in a box.”
Having a much better understanding of guests and using AI to identify patterns of behaviour will help TEEG develop experiences that really resonate for guests.
At present Boyd’s major focus is leveraging the current data collection by updating the key reports used by the leadership team to run the business. These reports are now derived from the one “source of truth”, with real time accurate group data that is presented in such a way to provide value to the operational teams to enable to business levers to be flexed in an extremely fast and responsive way.
Having better and faster access to data is also helping to create new opportunities for the business. “I was just speaking to the chief customer officer, she’s based in Singapore. We have collated all the different CRM systems into the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement platform, so we now have one database for all our guest contacts.
“Now we have an updated loyalty program initially launched in Singapore, with red, blue, gold and platinum tiers,” says Boyd, adding that TEEG is planning to use the data to create a series of unique and valuable offers for loyal guests that will be seamless, whether the guest is in a TEEG venue or online and all backed by TEEG’s refreshed websites.
Hosting this rich guest information brings IT security and privacy responsibilities. Boyd says that this is another area where being consolidated onto Microsoft platforms has proven an advantage. “Part of the security strategy is actually bringing each of the countries in the Microsoft umbrella, under one domain, under one platform.
“Privacy is extremely important to us. We need to be able to update our security upgrades in a systematic and rapid way and that’s why is so important that we are now on one common platform across the TEEG Group. Working with Microsoft on privacy systems has definitely benefited the business from a privacy and security point of view.”
One of the enduring benefits of having consolidated information systems and accessible data means TEEG is primed for ongoing innovation. Boyd for example says that; “One of the things we’re looking for right now is wearables; to turn the player card into a tech watch. There’s more value to the actual chip, the actual physicality. And we’re looking at how we can use mobile phones to replace our existing stored value cards.“
Boyd’s philosophy regarding to transformation has been to leverage data as the fuel for improvement. Having broken down the silos and deployed platforms that can surface data insights to people when and where they need them, TEEG’s digital systems are primed for ongoing innovation.
That, for Boyd, is where the fun really begins.