Q&A with British Cycling’s Head of IT and Digital, Cazz Ward: Part 1

Q&A with British Cycling’s Head of IT: Part 1

I wanted to find out how our partner British Cycling uses IT, so I took the opportunity to ask the person who knows most about this: Cazz Ward, Head of IT and Digital.

Can you explain briefly what responsibilities your role includes?

Cazz: Pretty much everything IT, both operational and strategic.

You can look at it as four areas. Firstly, there’s the digital workplace - the operational service management, the products and processes we use to run our business, helping us maximise our flexibility and efficiency. That includes the service desk, collaboration tools and back-office systems.

Then we've got risk and compliance. I'm also the responsible officer for information security for the organisation, and making sure that we are identifying and managing risk appropriately so that we're protecting the privacy and security of our information, and complying with legislation.

The third area is customer-facing digital platforms – including all our websites – and making sure that they meet the needs of our customers. Finally, the fourth area is making best use of our data and business intelligence. That includes our member data, which is really important to us, as well as the performance data for our elite athletes – so we’re aware we’re a prominent organisation in terms of risk of attack.

How many people are there in your team?

Cazz: We outsource our service desk, which frees us up to focus on more proactive work. We only have two members of staff in the workspace team but are responsive and run an efficient service.

We also have an in-house development team, and we’re part of a wider group, including a whole range of people working on digital: product management, content production, user experience, creative design, data analysts and more.

We've been looking carefully at the skills and the experience that we need, and how we operate as a digital organisation. We're moving towards more agile ways of working, with cross cutting teams working towards a common purpose and a common set of outcomes. That really starts to change the way that we do things here.

How many end users do you have?

Cazz: We’ve got about 250 employee users. But there's also the whole extended workforce, of 12,000 volunteers which includes coaches, marshals, commissaires and ride leaders, who all use our digital platforms, as well as 130,000 members.

What are your main IT priorities?

Cazz: In 2019, I carried out a review to look at our level of digital maturity across the whole organisation, from culture, ways of working and technology, to skills and experience and customer journeys. We realised that although we rely on digital a lot in the ways that we interact with our customers, we haven't always been sufficiently user-led or provided the best digital experience. We also decided our systems needed some overhauling.

Following this review, we’re starting to make some significant changes, including bringing in new people and upskilling our existing staff. We're also moving away from a monolithic, in-house developed platform, to a more service-oriented, cloud based, best of breed technology approach. This includes building user-led front ends that make for a much more pleasant experience – for example we’re re-building the membership journey.

We recognise that digital isn't just about the technology, it’s about being comfortable and confident to access and use the tools and data to make more evidence-based decisions. As well as providing the tools to staff, we need to help them learn how to use them better.

What role does cloud play in this?

Cazz: We've moved the majority of systems from on-premise now into the cloud. We are a Microsoft house, so we heavily use Microsoft 365, including Teams, and we've migrated all our file storage to SharePoint. We also use all the sharing, collaboration and security tools that that come with those products. A cloud-based telephony system has also meant that our customer services team can work much more flexibly.

Does being a sporting organisation change how you run IT?

Cazz: Generally, no. From my experience, IT challenges and opportunities are common across most organisations. For example, if you think about the Great Britain Cycling Team, we have a lot of people travelling to compete, and for our other cycling activities, we also have a lot of people working remotely as part of our regionally based teams. That’s the challenge – how do we enable them to work wherever they are, but still keep data safe?

We've got a lot of data about individual athletes related to their training plans and so on, and during events we might need to do real time data transfer, for example. We have to be mindful that there will be direct and targeted attacks against us, and that we've got a really huge range of potential vectors that can be attacked.

We’ll post Part 2 of this Q&A here tomorrow. Come back to read more about how British Cycling has responded to COVID-19, how Cazz sees IT developing in its future, and her advice for anyone wanting to get into a career in IT.