Greyhound Racing NSW (GRNSW) is the overarching body charged with providing strategic direction and leadership in the development, integrity and welfare of greyhound racing in New South Wales. It is the peak body of the sport, responsible for ensuring the competitiveness and long-term commercial viability of greyhound racing for the benefit of participants, commercial partners and the community.
GRNSW's annual revenue is in excess of $41 million. More than half of this is spent on race prize money. Much of the rest is used by GRNSW to fund administrative and capital works at 33 greyhound racing tracks in NSW. Just over half of the tracks are community or hobbyist tracks and the remainder are professional where punters can bet on the races through Australia's leading sports betting organisation, TAB and corporate bookmakers.
"It took just a few weeks to go live and it now provides us with a dashboard, a one page summary giving a strategic snapshot of all the projects that are taking place at different tracks."
A time of change
Since 2009, when GRNSW merged with a sister organisation and became responsible for the regulatory affairs of the sport, the business has been through substantial change. Its responsibilities have broadened and to reflect this, in July 2010, the organisation undertook a major restructuring. At the same time the number of employees has grown from roughly 12 to 40.
To cope with the transformation, some internal processes and information systems have also had to change. One significant action was the appointment of a new IT partner, Professional Advantage, and the replacement of a small business finance system with a new enterprise-grade solution, Microsoft Dynamics GP.
"Professional Advantage came to us with a slightly less expensive option, but more than that, they grasped our business needs a little more. They were much more adaptable to work with us to implement the whole solution."
Business intelligence: a capital idea
In addition to requiring a new financial system, GRNSW was keen to obtain real-time visibility into its funding of capital works projects. Previously the organisation had monitored spending and project budgets with the help of spreadsheets. With Microsoft Dynamics GP about to go live, Simpson recognised an opportunity to gain greater timeliness of information and more visibility into the capital projects figures.
With help from Professional Advantage, GRNSW deployed QlikView, a leading business intelligence solution, and integrated it with the financial system to enable management to better access up to date data.
"It took just a few weeks to go live and it now provides us with a dashboard, a one page summary giving a strategic snapshot of all the projects that are taking place at different tracks," Simpson says.
Replacing the archaic
"One reason for going with QlikView was because we could see its future value to the organisation," Simpson continues. "Using it for capital projects was advantageous, but more importantly, we knew this kind of functionality would be essential for use with OzChase, a new greyhound racing system that manages operational data."
Since 2009, GRNSW had been dealing with what Simpson describes as "archaic systems that were highly labour intensive". Poor functionality and system inflexibility had held GRNSW back, leaving the organisation unable to adopt new practices within the industry. By early 2013 for example, GRNSW was the only greyhound racing organisation in Australia that wasn't able to pay prize money directly into owners' bank accounts. The OzChase development project, combined with integration tool, Scribe, and BI solution, QlikView were seen as a way to solve these problems.
Phase one
Development culminated in June 2013, when the first phase of the project went live. Scribe provided integration between Microsoft Dynamics GP and OzChase, enabling the automation of payments for all race meetings throughout the state.
"It was a pretty nervy time as we got close to going live. We pay over $20 million per year in prize money and we pay around 500 people every week, so we were a little on edge. In the end though, I was amazed at how smoothly it all occurred," Simpson smiles.
Phase two
In the next phase of the project, GRNSW aims to have race data being fed from OzChase into QlikView, enabling management to analyse every aspect of the meetings.
"This will allow us to combine financial data with some of our demographic data so we can see who attends meetings, which meetings they attend compared to where they live, and where our prize money is being won," Simpson notes. GRNSW will use the information in QlikView to identify where races should be scheduled for maximum benefit; to inform advertising and promotional plans; and to obtain a better understanding of behaviour within the greyhound racing community.
"Everything that's been done to date in terms of QlikView and the capital funding programs is helping us enormously. I also think what we've achieved in the last few months with OzChase is up there with the best achievements we've made in this organisation. But right now we are only 25 per cent of the way towards where I think we can get to. The next step will be to use QlikView to pull information out of OzChase for greater analysis. That's where real value lies for us." Simpson concludes.