Gerry Pennell, CIO for the London Organising Committee for the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics overcame numerous challenges in the run-up to, and during the London Olympics 2012 to help deliver successful games by leveraging technology.
“Lessons from deploying a project whose deadline cannot change..."
It is beyond doubt that technology, when deployed, can have a transformational impact. The London Olympics was one such event where technology played an important role. However, a project of such a magnitude also has several challenges associated with it.
“There is a lot of difference between running a corporate IT infrastructure and delivering a high profile event like Olympics. Event like this have high profile expectations from people across the globe, which you cannot control. You have only one chance to deliver the event. It has to perfect and should match the expectations. This is very different from any corporate environment, where you get an opportunity to test, tweak or reset the entire technology infrastructure to get results or meet the management exceptions. In such events, if things went wrong on the day one, you will have to live with it for rest of the days,” said Gerry Pennell, CIO for the London Organising Committee for the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.
Things become more challenging when a CIO has to work for an industry which is new to technology adoption.
“No Olympic ever was delivered using technology before 2002. Besides, there is no technology innovation specific for delivering games. The biggest change between London Olympics and Beijing was the access of information on mobile phones and tablets. Similarly, the biggest change between Australia Olympics and London was usage of high resolution digital cameras,” he said. “Imagine the kind for bandwidth requirement when 100s of photojournalist clicking pictures 16 frames per second using a 16 MP camera and sending it to their respective offices,” Pennell said, while delivering the keynote address at the 14th Annual CIO&Leader Conference.
The rise of mobility further posed a challenge to Pennell. Sixty percent of the over all traffic that came to the data centers during peak hours was from mobile phones. “People were using mobile applications developed by us or applications of news website, which was synced with our application. People were even using hand-held devices to get updates of game results, while watching TV or doing any other work,” he said. “Lawn tennis was one the event that got huge attention, as the local boy Andy Murray, who later won the men's singles tennis gold, was on winning trajectory,” he recalled. Most of the people in the Olympic committee had never delivered an event before, which added to the existing challenge. Pennell, however, overcame all the challenges and was successful in delivering smooth games.