It’s no easy task to deliver IT services for an international event on the scale of the FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015, but it was a task that local company Origin was confident it could achieve to the highest international standards.
The Auckland-headquartered company won the 22-day tournament tender over one of the biggest IT companies in New Zealand thanks to their “innovative approach, focus on customer experience, and technical excellence”, says Origin CEO Michael Russell.
With the contract calling for planning and project management; delivery and installation services; IT communications, cabling, wifi, power, backup, hardware and wireless supply; and onsite support services at stadiums as well as remote helpdesk support for all technology services, it was a “huge and quite unique” project, says Origin project manager Matt Sellar.
“While these are all services Origin already offers, many of our processes had to be adapted,” says Sellar. “Also, because specifics were still being worked through between FIFA and the LOC (Local Organising Committee), we quoted the project based on the best information we had at the time, but as it progressed the amount of changes and variations were immense.”
Coping with changes to the initial planning proved to be one of the key challenges for Origin, according to Sellar. “We soon realised our usual variation process was too slow. Ordinarily we may get a few variations and hardware has already been procured, but during this project we ended up with over 100 separate hardware orders totalling well over 3000 pieces – each of which had to be tracked, reported, configured if required, and delivered to a tight schedule.”
The company quickly implemented some new systems to deal with the orders, using a quick email system and Onenote notebooks to confirm the variations, and collaborating on spreadsheets via a Sharepoint project site to avoid multiple copies circulating.
“We also leaned on our suppliers to facilitate a build area in their warehouse where we sent our configuration engineers, which saved double freighting costs, and logistically made sense with the quantity of equipment,” explains Sellar.
Adapting quickly was a key to success for the team, says Sellar, along with thoughtful recruitment and planning to work within the tight timeframes of the project. Spread across seven cities in the space of just 22 days, the Origin team had only two weeks in each stadium prior to kick-off to install and setup everything required for full operation.
That included the installation of an estimated 3000 metres of cable, and installation and management of 45,000 square inches of additional screens for press and conference areas.
However, Sellar says Origin was careful to select the right people for the demanding job. “We actively chose engineers who were experienced, technically proficient, and able to work under pressure unassisted,” he says. “We then ensured we trained people at the right times, with refreshers just prior to the onsite work.”
“We also decided to sub-contract the South Island venues, which saved a lot of time and effort as compared to Origin flying engineers back and forth between the islands,” Sellar adds.
Extensive planning ahead of the project also smoothed the process, with six months of research and consulting taking place just to win the tender. “Training was made easier as we had collected good site information, including photos and detailed network diagrams, during the design phase. The planning work up front definitely paid off during setup.”
In working with FIFA, the company was required to meet the global giant’s “exacting standards”, says Sellar. “FIFA protect their brand very seriously. We outfitted our staff with approved uniforms, and although the network setups at the venues were temporary, great care was taken to create tidy installs, to the point of having to do quite a bit of re-work.”
Origin also supplied an 0800 support number, full 24/7 helpdesk, and email support, along with the onsite technicians, throughout the tournament. As testament to the quality of design and installation, the helpdesk volume was extremely low, with just single digit calls for a nationwide network with over 1000 users and 52 matches.
Sellar says the tournament proves New Zealand is more than capable of hosting large-scale events. “The only New Zealand-specific issue was connectivity from here back to the FIFA offices in Zurich. As this is nearly halfway around the world, we couldn’t provide as much bandwidth as we would have liked for the FIFA team,” he explains. “Whilst New Zealand is making good strides in general Internet connectivity with the UFB rollout, international bandwidth is always a contention.”
However, the overwhelmingly positive outcome showed such things can be overcome, and the success of the project has given Origin a boost of confidence for similar future opportunities. “Successfully delivering on this gives us the confidence and belief that it can repeated,” says Sellar. “Often times it is a mindset that can make all the difference, and this project gives the Origin team a lot we can draw upon.”