When two of the world’s best cricket teams made their way to the centre of the MCG on International Women’s Day, it was a moment for history.
More than 86,000 people gathered in the stands to watch Australia triumph over India; the biggest crowd ever for a women’s sporting event in Australia, and a new global attendance record for a women’s cricket match.
Australia is, for the first time, host to the ICC T20 World Cup – and is the first nation ever to host standalone Women’s and Men’s events in a single year.
For Cricket Australia it’s a pinnacle achievement in the wake of many, many months of planning and international liaison.
Sarah Kealy, Community and Events Officer at the ICC T20 World Cup Local Organising Committee, explains that a key objective of the women’s T20 World Cup is to inspire young women and girls; to create a legacy of hundreds of thousands of girls around the world playing cricket.
“I love that absolutely anybody can play cricket, young or old, boys, girls at any level of ability that you might have. You can play it anywhere; you can play it on the beach, in the backyard, on the pitch at the MCG. I just love how inclusive it is, it really is a sport for all,” says Kealy.
T20 is one of the fastest growing cricket formats and in the lead up to the World Cup Cricket Australia, the Dubai-based International Cricket Council (ICC) and the Local Organising Committee (LOC) liaised with the ten leading women’s teams from around the world, developed the competition, organised venues, and helped fill the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the final.
When Kealy started working on the project 18 months ago, she was one of seven in the LOC, a team which has since grown to almost 60 in Australia and more in Dubai, all focused on the success of the event.
Office 365 and Teams score for Cricket Australia
Cricket Australia’s head office is literally across the road from the MCG. It’s a busy hive with people focused on supporting all levels of cricket right across the nation. The organisation works with the broader Australian cricket community, with elite athletes at the top of their game, with the State and Territory organisations that support State players and competitions including the Big Bash League, through to local clubs, schools and children picking up a bat for the first time.
Ensuring all its 1700 personnel have access to state of the art technology has been a priority for Australian cricket, recognising that only by enhancing communications and collaboration opportunities nationally and ensuring everyone has access to the information they need when and where they need it will people be able to perform at their peak.
Murray Newham is the Senior Manager of the Cloud Platform and Architecture Team at Cricket Australia and explains that the technology challenge was to find a solution that would suit all nine separate organisations within the Cricket Australia family. Office 365 was identified as the ideal platform – delivering productivity tools, communication and collaboration opportunity through Teams, with identity and access management as well as systems security assured through the Microsoft Azure cloud.
“Office 365 and the Microsoft Azure cloud platform has enabled us to shut down our data centre, which we did in April. We’re 100 per cent cloud,” he says. That, says Newham, also allows the organisation to innovate more rapidly and embrace new cloud services as they emerge.
The impact of the digital transformation is palpable. Emma Cashen is Manager of Technology Adoption at Cricket Australia and recalls that previously the only way of sharing information was via email, and meetings which often had to be held face-to-face – expensive and complex for an ecosystem that features a national body and eight State and Territories, along with international links.
Deploying Office 365 and encouraging the adoption of Teams has dramatically streamlined communications, broken open information silos, and fostered a national cricket community that has proven essential to the smooth running of the ICC T20 World Cup. With an E5 licence for Office 365, Cricket Australia was able to simultaneously digitally transform all national, State and Territory cricket organisations providing access to the same technology and capabilities.
That same technology has supported the team responsible for organising the ICC T20 World Cup. The impact of Teams in particular has been profound says Cashen.
Instead of having to send documents or spreadsheets via email with the risk that everyone edits them and creates new versions, Teams simply shares the same document so that there is always a single source of truth.
And because the Teams information is always accessible it helps overcome the time difference between Dubai and Australia – when Dubai wakes up, ICC personnel can simply continue with the work started in Australia.
The rapport that has built up over the last few months meant that when ICC personnel from Dubai did fly into Australia in the lead up to the World Cup to support the team on the ground, they were instantly familiar with their local counterparts and the roles they were playing. The ICC personnel slotted in seamlessly to the World Cup effort.
Sarah Kealey says; “Having had established relationships with them already through working so closely and collaborating online really means that when they land here we can just hit the ground running; we know exactly where everything is saved, we know how we work with each other and we can just continue business as usual.
“Using Microsoft Teams as our sole platform has really opened up the way that we communicate and collaborate as a team. It’s really streamlined a lot of our workflows and processes and made it a lot easier for us to work together to achieve one outcome.”
Kealey adds; “Using Microsoft Teams has really opened up the way that we communicate and collaborate with each other around the country and around the globe. It’s really cut out the need for international trips; we can now utilise video-conferencing, we can share documents, we can all access master documents and work in them at the same time. It’s really cut down issues in terms of version control and it’s just made day-to-day life much quicker and easier for us all.
“Personally I don’t think I could perform my role without Teams anymore. Being able to access documents while offline out on the road by using the Microsoft Teams App on my phone has been an absolute game-changer. I know that no matter what happens I’ve got the most relevant details in the palm of my hand and can share them easily with teams who are out on the road as well as sitting at my desk.
“Using this new technology has really helped us to change the way we organise and plan for a major event. It’s really helped us to think a bit differently and more innovatively. It’s helping us to organise one of the best world events ever and without it we wouldn’t be able to reach our tournament goals of bringing together generations and cultures or inspiring women and girls.”
Streamlined approach delivers impressive results
Besides being able to access the system through the app on a smartphone, personnel have Surface devices running Windows 10 which offer the flexibility of a computer and a tablet. Cashen explains that meets the needs of people who work mainly in the office and also supports the large contingent of people that travels with their devices – interstate, to cricket pitches, to schools. It’s important, she says, that everyone has access to the same device, to consistent applications with no limitations. Importantly, the single device approach has also streamlined Cricket Australia’s IT team support responsibilities with just a single device and standard operating environment to manage.
“We found that Surface was the best fit for that. We have a lot of people that will go to schools and deliver cricket programs and they’ll have their Surface in their hands in a tablet mode to help deliver them that while doing presentations and the like. Or you’ll have coaches that are running it on the side of the field while the players are out on the field and they’ll be able to capture notes and take photos with their Surface device and it’s not that big, heavy, clunky device that people have previously had to hold,” says Cashen.
It’s not just transforming cricket on the field; Murray Newham says that the digital transformation and embrace of Teams means that; “Decisions get made a lot faster, people are able to collaborate better without the constraint of the email clutter and the CC and the Reply All, and then missing things that are deep within an email thread.
“Something we are investing a little bit more time in, is making sure that people are able to have seamless workflows around document management, where they put their files, how they work through the process of getting a document approved and reviewed. So Teams enables that sort of discussion a lot easier without having to find the right version, or perhaps finding the wrong version somewhere in an email chain from a week ago.”
Newham has also rolled out Icebreaker – a lightweight bot that works alongside Teams. Every Monday morning at 9am everyone receives a new chat that matches up two people in a team and encourages them to go out and get a coffee and learn more about one another. It’s important says Newham because; “A large percentage of our balance scorecard in terms of organisational performance is based on developing a good culture and our people’s engagement. So that’s been a big enabler in terms of getting people talking and getting to know each other, and it’s been relatively easy for us to implement through Teams.”
He has also launched a trial of Swoop – an analytics service which interprets how people in the organisation are working – how often they use Teams, how they communicate and collaborate, how the greatest impact is being achieved. Armed with those insights it’s possible to encourage best practice behaviours by gamifying people’s use of Teams to achieve the best results.
Microsoft partner Swoop Analytics has developed the service so that enterprises can see how well their people are working together and identify opportunities for improvement. Organisations with an enterprise licence for Teams, such as Cricket Australia, can use the service by clicking on the Swoop tab within Teams and instantly analyse interaction data.
Cai Kjaer, Swoop co-founder and CEO, explains that the service allows organisations to identify their “Teaming Champions”. These are the; “People that have really demonstrated not just how you use Microsoft Teams but also are actively contributing to many different teams.”
The insights that Swoop delivers allow organisations like Cricket Australia to identify collaboration gaps where a little extra coaching or mentoring regarding best practice ways to use Teams can deliver real impact – and also uncover examples of how colleagues might already be using Teams in an impressive way, serving as a beacon for the broader enterprise.