By Sam Hofer – Senior Product Manager, eLottery at BCLC

As emerging consumers increasingly favor digital lottery products, lotteries around the globe are finding solutions to meet the challenge of this evolution in purchase behavior. A lack of communication and mutual appreciation, along with some internal distrust, can lead to a rift in the lottery that takes a concentrated effort to fix. In this Real Talk article, we will explore how the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) has changed internally in order to meet the demands of our evolving lottery players.

The Story

Since the introduction of online lottery in 2005, the retail division and eGaming division (PlayNow.com) has operated independently with different business priorities.

In 2012 I joined BCLC in an innovation role in the retail lottery division. It didn’t take long to recognize an obvious opportunity to launch mobile apps, to engage digital-savvy lottery players and appeal to new players. Our working team explored apps such as a ticket scanner and new transactional lottery games. However, as we engaged the eGaming division, the collaboration we were seeking did not fit in with their business priorities (more on this later). Since BCLC had decided that the eGaming division owned digital platforms, most notably app development and online transactional accounts, our progress stalled.

With minimal engagement from the eGaming division, the retail division continued to explore non-transactional lottery apps. We even considered developing a competing online platform to the eGaming division’s platform PlayNow.com. This led to even greater friction between the retail and eGaming divisions. It was clear that we needed a lot of alignment.

Soon after, I transferred to the eGaming division to primarily focus on mobile development. This division was a completely different culture within BCLC. They operated like a startup, more able to accept risk, with a speed to market mindset to gain insights from real-world launches on PlayNow.com. They have more access to better data to make quick business decisions. With a wealth of digital opportunities but finite resources, there are only so many initiatives that can move forward.

So, the retail division knows they need to innovate with content and distribution, but is constrained by legacy systems. The retail division has access to increased resources since the bulk of lottery revenue comes from retail channels, but the trend of retail player participation is declining. In contrast, the eGaming division is launching new lottery content regularly on online platforms, resulting in double-digit growth in revenue and player participation. However, due to limited revenue in comparison, the eGaming division has resource constraints which require strict adherence to prioritization. The solution to collaborate seems obvious, but one issue continually pops up: organizational culture.

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It was clear that more trust and collaboration was needed to build stronger relationships between the divisions. We knew that building and maintaining trust would take time, and it would require effort from both divisions, both at a leadership level and at the grassroots level. I recall three specific initiatives that significantly contributed to this goal of increased culture alignment:

1) All five Canadian jurisdictions began to explore new national lottery games. Typically two people from the retail division represent BCLC. But since we were trying to appeal to new players, the retail division asked for one representative from the eGaming division for each initiative. As we explored a number of concepts, it led to many engagements between the two divisions at various levels, leading to a stronger sense of trust and collaboration within BCLC.

2) The eGaming division began work on a lottery native app with two primary features; a lottery ticket scanner and the ability to purchase lottery tickets within the app. While a transactional app is a feature that benefits the goals of online lottery, together we realized that a ticket scanner app would benefit player engagement in the retail division. We decided to release the ticket scanner first, and made sure to have significant engagement and collaboration with the retail division by including retail stakeholders in the core cross-functional team.

3) The retail division began to investigate retail terminal replacement. As they assessed scalable capabilities for the terminals, the eGaming division was asked to help define the requirements from a content and distribution perspective. A converged roadmap was created to align retail and digital lottery initiatives, to ensure retail partners and players can benefit from future terminal capabilities.

We continue to hone a culture of strong collaboration and openness between the divisions. Not only does it build trust, but we learn from each other. The retail division has decades of managing the lottery business, while the eGaming division has expertise in creating new online lottery experiences. In the past year together we have made significant progress in communicating more effectively and appreciating each other’s talents. As we explore future initiatives, this synergized approach will tremendously benefit our retail partners and most notably, the lottery players of British Columbia.

Lessons Learned

For those lottery jurisdictions that are implementing digital lottery initiatives, no doubt some aspects of this story resonate. I would like to share some of our lessons learned to help other lottery jurisdictions to avoid the pitfalls we once encountered.

Determine roles and responsibilities. The retail division has many more years of experience in managing a lottery business than any digital lottery division. However, the paradigms of digital may be outside of the wheelhouse of a retail division. This is where an eGaming division can provide digital expertise to enhance lottery experiences for players in all channels. So together we created a RACI chart, which has helped clarify the roles and responsibilities between the divisions; as an overview at BCLC, the retail division owns the products while the eGaming division owns the digital features for those products. This clarity has significantly helped the efficiency of our lottery efforts.

Foster a sense of trust and collaboration. Leaders need to encourage collaboration and empower their teams to work autonomously within and across divisions. At BCLC we set up a monthly lottery convergence meeting between senior/middle management from each division to start collaborating on a regular basis. We co-submitted business cases together and co-presented project progress in each other’s divisional meetings. Working collaboratively across division lines soon became the business norm.

Develop a converged product roadmap. But first, understand what ‘product’ means for each division. Product in the retail division are the games that are offered, and the product enhancements are the marketing promotions to refresh those games. Product in online lottery are the digital features of online platforms that act as a metagame around the lottery games offered. With this insight, we continued to identify more misalignment across divisions and actively sought to resolve. We discovered new synergies as we created one prioritized lottery product roadmap across the divisions.

 Focus on player centricity. Continually assess your product roadmap to deliver the maximum value to the lottery player. Ensure to look at players holistically, whenever and wherever they interact with the lottery, whether it is at retail or online. Innovative lottery player solutions are the result of strong collaboration between SMEs from both retail and digital. So encourage cross-pollination across divisions, since many of our strongest leaders in the digital division were once part of the retail division.

 Provide value to our retail partners. Our retail partners are also challenged with the emerging purchase behavior of consumers. At BCLC, the collective brain power of both divisions are collaborating on a retail value proposition strategy. The retail lottery experience of the future will blur the lines between retail and digital, so we are proactively planning a number of initiatives to enhance the player’s experience whenever and wherever they are.

 Continually iterate on the process. Mantras such as ‘Fail Fast, Fail Cheap’ and ‘Minimal Viable Product’ need to be accepted as part of the culture. Do not fear failure, since you learn the correct path from choosing either the right or wrong path; nothing is learned from indecision. Or even worse, analysis paralysis. In the digital age, real data helps us make better decisions and agile development is the mechanism to pivot to the correct development solution.

 Every project has a Pizza Team. Pizzas are usually cut into 6 or 8 slices. Everyone in your core team should get a slice; if not, the core team size is too big. A small, cross-functional team can more quickly make decisions to increase project efficiency and effectiveness. This team may need to autonomously remove blockers to progress, and so it is empowered by a Steering Committee who provides guidance, not direction, which further helps project velocity.

Modularize technology. Our legacy technology infrastructure in the eGaming division was a primary factor in the lack of collaboration between the divisions. Front-end functionality and back-end services were tightly coupled, increasing the effort and cost to launch new content. We are currently developing a universal back-end to connect all platforms, which will facilitate innovative content delivery. So learnings from the eGaming division are shared with the retail division, and vice-versa, to the benefit of our overall technology stack for all lottery systems.

Conclusion

The lottery vision at BCLC is to ’Inspire players to dream, connect, play and be entertained anytime and anyplace they choose’. To meet this goal, we have needed to undergo many transformative internal changes. All organizational levels need to trust and collaborate for a change in culture to be successful. While BCLC has found some early success, we have many big challenges ahead that require the very best from all of our people.

About the Writer

During 9 years at Electronic Arts, I led development of innovative game experiences as a Game Designer. In 2012 I joined BCLC to develop new product concepts and related innovation initiatives in the retail lottery division for almost two years. I now manage online lottery in the eGaming division; PlayNow.com has been selling lottery tickets online since 2005.