'The Locker Room' is an article series which will give you a behind the scenes look into who we are and how we're working at Unibet.
Being an online bookmaker requires both the ability to follow the incredibly fast development we’re seeing in the industry by being innovative in terms of implementing new functions and providing the best gaming experience on the market. Our goal is to offer the best gaming experience out there, and as high as this goal may seem, we truly believe we’ve got the dedicated team with the necessary talent to reach it!
Niam is part of that team, he started working for Unibet as a customer service agent back in 2000. Through his passion for the industry he’s worked his way up to be the current Sportsbook Project Manager after working within the sportsbook team for more than a decade. We’ve recently had a chat with him where we talked about his interesting job as well as all the changes we’ve done and will be doing in 2017 on the Unibet Sportsbook.
Tell us a bit about your journey with Unibet – for how long have your worked with the company, and what was your first job?
This coming November will mark my 17th Autumn with Unibet, starting out as a Customer Service agent for the Italian market back in 2000. Over the years I worked in multiple CS middle management roles covering the educational and operational parts of the department, until about 10 years ago when I joined Sportsbook. Here I was also initially responsible for the educational and operational parts of the product whilst acting as the main link between CS and Sportsbook, including external suppliers. The last few years I’ve been focusing most of my time on Product Development although still partly involved and responsible for other operational areas such as Regulatory and Sportsbook Integrity.
How does a normal day look like for you as a Sportsbook project manager?
I tend to firstly take a quick look at the Incident Management report to ensure any issues we might have encountered overnight are resolved or under control + respective stakeholders up to speed. The next step involves checking the Release Notes of the week/day for any updates with imminent or upcoming deliveries; this would generally lead to a series of calls and emails to align internally or with the supplier in question but also ensure expectations of respective stakeholders are managed appropriately. Prior and post any release, extensive testing is required to minimize the risks of anything else breaking once rolled out in production and carefully assess the next tracks in the communicated roadmap. Every project and track is assigned an internal priority within Sportsbook which is in turn prioritized across the whole company before we can finally (when relevant) reflect this in the priority list towards external suppliers for development.
After launching the new sportsbook client, we’ve received feedback from customers, saying that they still prefer the old sportsbook client despite the changes we’ve made on the new client since the first release. Have you something in mind to change the customers’ opinion and hopefully make them feel more comfortable with the new client? Can you see a progress in getting the customers to use the new sportsbook client?
Generally users don’t like change, it’s easier to stick with something they’re used to even if the change is a positive one – nonetheless we fully understand the expectations that come with such a big change. We were also equally aware such expectations would have been impossible to meet from day one; the transition that slowly led to accept and understand the change had to come in different stages. This is also partly the reason why the old sportsbook client was kept alive a bit longer than we originally planned, until later this Quarter when the old client will be switched off definitively across all markets. Each month we’ve been tracking the activity and perception of users and although there are still some loyal users of the old page, there is a clear trend and increase across the majority using and accepting the new sportsbook client as their main one as new features are implemented every quarter.
Are we planning on implementing new functions/options for the cash-out system? Will the customers be able to cash out on prematch and accumulators bets in the near future?
Absolutely, this has already started with Cash Out on pre-match rolled out earlier this quarter - although not on all events - together with the possibility to Cash Out from My Open bets, without having to necessarily navigate to the event in question. Still there’s a lot more to come, as explained the transition to the new client will have an ongoing development track to continuously improve the current user experience. Back to Cash Out, the full scope including accumulators has been prioritized for an end of Q2 / beginning of Q3 2017 delivery.
In your opinion, what’s the most interesting current development in the sports betting industry?
Not necessarily the most interesting but without a doubt the most effective, and that’s users constant need for speed. A poor performance or lack of speed will drive users away no matter how fancy or innovative the functionality in question is.
How do you see the future of sports betting? When do you think we’ll be sitting with our HoloLens watching the game and placing bets with our voice?
Performance and speed will personally remain a constant top priority, a solid flexible set up that lasts in time will ease the process with implementing new and innovative features going forward. Placing bets with our voice is already out there, the reason it hasn’t really kicked off yet may have something to do with the expectation that doesn’t quite match its performance..yet.
Do you have any advice for the sportsbook enthusiasts we have on the community who’re interested in getting into the betting industry? Does it require an education or can you start from scratch and work your way up to a position like yours?
As most things, an education is always beneficial as although not necessarily required it does in many cases set a solid base that enables you to grow within the industry. Most importantly however, I personally appreciate more an individual’s way of working/interacting over how much they already know – as such although a plus, background or experience shouldn’t be an absolute must. A sports enthusiast with a natural passion and continuous willingness to learn can take you a long way.