“Once an operator has migrated to the right provider, one that is strategically aligned as a partner, the benefits can be huge.”
For operators, migrating platforms is generally a last resort, especially since operationally, a move can be both costly and time-consuming. It’s no surprise, however, that once they’ve tried everything to get their platform to perform, they’re left with no other choice but to migrate. After all, a badly performing platform will have direct repercussions on an operator and their reputation.
Valentine believes that operators have coped with underperforming platforms for far too long, “They tolerate a badly performing platform, low growth rates, instability resulting in downtime and general poor service from their vendor, all because they are concerned about the operational upheaval from switching platforms.
“Eventually though, when the issues can no longer be ignored, and they feel a real impact on their bottom line or are unable to implement their business strategy in a timely manner, they are left with no option but to migrate.”
Making the move: Avoiding the pitfalls of migration
As industry experts, and celebrating 20 years of business this year, Comtrade has seen the same mistakes play out time and time again, all of which can be avoided.
Even when the need to migrate is obvious, operators can still struggle putting pen to paper. Though it’s understandable that they want to ‘get it right’, Valentine believes this can result in the prolonged use of a poor platform that affects their bottom line.
“A big mistake we see is actually failing to complete the exercise. An operator may spend months or even years discussing changing platforms and still not proceed with it.
“They have checked every supplier and quite often invested in outside consultants to help with the process, ticking every box for their procurement procedures and then can’t make a decision. Ultimately the business then continues to underperform.”
Migration to access a regulated market
When operators do take the plunge to migrate, choosing a vendor is the next big challenge. For many, this choice is based on which provider can help them to access newly regulated markets, but Valentine believes that this is one of the pitfalls in the process.
He explains, “I believe operators are too focused on whether a provider is already certified in a certain jurisdiction when selecting a new or additional platform. They limit their choice significantly and all of the reasons that they don’t want to use their existing provider for a new market get ignored when selecting the new vendor.
“The reason is often thrown around that time to market is crucial, and they are concerned that a platform provider will take too long to be certified, but again if the right partner is selected an extra week or even a couple of months will make no difference when you are entering the market for the long term.”
The only caution operators should heed, however, is ensuring that the vendor already has a good track record with other operators in regulated markets. Once you’ve identified this and seen that they have successfully added further certifications in new markets, then there should be no ongoing issue to prevent an operator from opting for them.
Personalisation in migration: Giving operators what they need
“An operator’s clients are the players, no other technology within the gaming ecosystem has so many interactions with a player than a gaming platform. Our igaming platform (iCore) is architected in a way that games and even sportsbooks are just plugin products, and it allows our clients to run multiple sportsbooks if they so choose. Everything to do with the player is controlled by the platform which means the operator has full control.”
For most operators, an out-of-the-box platform won’t give them enough of what they need to make the move, especially if they can tell that some of their current issues will be replicated again. Having a personalised and customisable migration is the only way to seal the deal, and something that Comtrade believes puts its solution head and shoulders above other providers in the industry.
“Bespoke development is absolutely key for any significant operator, and I would say this is what truly sets us apart from our competition. Every one of our clients has their separate deployment of our software and each one is heavily customised and configured to their specific requirements.
Valentine continues, “Typically for any migration, there will be a team of 25-30 people involved. The team is led by a fully dedicated project manager and a deputy and then these are supported by dedicated business analysts to ensure the client is getting the exact solution they require.”
Getting what you need from your platform migration
Once a provider has been chosen, it’s imperative that the operator is clear on what their expectations and requirements are for the new platform. Having a list of the current platform challenges vs. what an ideal platform would look like can change the game when it comes to working with the vendor.
This honest and clear direction will help to build a strong working partnership with the vendor, which will lead to an effective collaboration, something that Steven Valentine believes could make or break a successful migration.
Valentine explains “When operators consider changing platforms, they have to ensure that the new supplier can address all of the issues behind the reason for change. They also should be using the migration as a way to streamline and improve their own internal processes.”
Looking into the future of the partnership and ensuring that the platform you migrate to will be what you want in five or even ten years, is paramount to achieving your long-term business goals.
“The main consideration has to be choosing a company that is strategically aligned with their long-term strategy. Selecting a platform should be based around a minimum of a 10-year partnership.
“With M&A being a huge part of the gaming world, you must consider if the partner you select today will still be the same in 3-5 years. Will the company still be under the same ownership, will it have the same values, and will it be in a position or even want to support your business in the future?”
Future-proofing with Comtrade
“Good software development is in our DNA and over 95% of our 350 staff are technical.”
With a client list that boasts some of the most reputable names in the industry, Playtech, BetFred, Unibet and Blueprint, to name a few, it’s no surprise why Comtrade is one of the first choices for operators. Valentine believes that this isn’t just down to the solution it offers, rather the ethos that sits at the heart of the company.
“Whether a gaming platform is future proof isn’t down to the underlying software, it’s really down to the focus and ethos of the company. The company has to be very adept and comfortable with software development. We have been in gaming for 20 years.
“The net result and benefit of this is the fact we are constantly updating our platform to keep up with industry demands and the latest regulations. We actually provide updates every 3 weeks, on a no-downtime basis. Each new release is a mixture of our new roadmap features or client-specific functionality or requests.”
The dos and don’ts for a successful migration
With so much at stake, it can be easy for a migration process to either fall flat, or to be a lengthy and costly procedure. For Valentine, there are just four key dos for operators looking to migrate:
- Visit your preferred supplier before committing to them, meet the team you will be working with, and get to know the individuals who will be responsible for the success of the migration.
- Have a look at the other deals your supplier has recently done, asses are these companies similar to yours or do they just take on anyone who comes along.
- Speak with their clients, the ones whom they have recently signed and ones they have worked with for a long time.
- Listen to what the market is telling you. There are many vendors available, but many are suited to operators when they are at a certain stage in their lifecycle as a business. Reputations overall, whether good or bad, are typically earned!
And three key things to avoid:
- Put too much weight on an RFI. You won’t learn much about the difference between companies or products from an Excel spreadsheet.
- Drag the process out. Although it’s a huge decision and shouldn’t be rushed it also should take more than 6 months to reach a decision. Any longer is just an ongoing distraction to the existing operation.
- Make minor cost differences the deciding factor. Today’s cheapest price is usually tomorrow’s expensive mistake.
Steven Valentine, chief commercial officer