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Rio 2016: How Atos is Helping the IOC Redeploy its Budget from Run to Digital

Four years ago, at the time of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympic Games, NelsonHall reported on the work Atos does for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) though its Major Events unit. See our previous commentary here. This week we visited its center in Barcelona to get an update on the work it is doing for the Rio Games starting next month,

The Olympic Games remain a fantastic opportunity for Atos to demonstrate it can handle complexity and scale for a very visible event. The numbers are humongous: 4bn viewers, 300k accreditations, 70k volunteers, 30k media members, 10.5k athletes - and also on the IT side: an expected 1bn security alerts, 200k hours of testing, 250 servers (equivalent to 1,000 physical servers) and 80 applications.

Major Events is a relatively small unit within Atos (we estimate revenues <€100m), with activity fluctuating significantly from one year to the other in terms of headcount and revenues. Major Events has diversified its client base from the IOC to other international sporting events, including the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto. The unit is Spain-centric for historical reasons: Atos, then SEMA Group, had started servicing the IOC for the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. And in 2012, Atos acquired MSL Group a scoring and time group with sport domain experience, based in Madrid.

In addition to managing scale, Atos Major Events manages uncertainty: at the time of its contract renewal (until 2024) in late 2013, the company did not where the Olympics would take place in 2022 (Beijing) and 2024 (still TBD). The location impacts Atos significantly from a delivery perspective e.g. for the Sochi 2014 Winter Games, Atos faced IT labor shortage in Sochi and had to source personnel across Russia, and in Russian-speaking countries (i.e. Romania and Serbia). For the 218 PyeongChang Winter Games, Atos Major Events is facing a similar challenge, and will be relocating IT personnel from Seoul, 200km away. In total, the financial impact is significant (up to 20% in additional costs), all within the context of a fixed bid, done eight years before the event. Nevertheless, Atos highlights its margins on Major Events are positive.

Atos Major Events provides a full IT outsourcing service. This includes a SIAM role, working with ~30 technology partners (which it has not selected to work with, but has gained years of experience in joint work). In addition to its SIAM role, Atos provides systems integration services and software products (Games management System, including volunteer portal, sport entries and qualifications, accreditation service, and workforce management), as well as security services. Testing, of course, is a priority: “when we are finished testing, we start testing again”.

IOC Budget Shifting from Run Services to Digital

Reflecting a broader market evolution, the Rio Games take place in the context of shifting budgets: the IOC is looking to drive down costs on run services. IaaS (on Canopy private cloud) is a part of this change, with Atos using a Canopy datacenter in Eindhoven, Netherlands for the 2018 Winter Games. The biggest savings will come from removing the need for migrating 1k physical servers in a new onshore datacenter for each Games. Also, there a very significant space gain element. Obviously, the datacenter is located on the other side of the Atlantic for the Rio Games and Atos Major Events will be using dedicated leased lines for critical applications.

Delivery is also changing: the company will deploy its last onsite Integration Center (mostly providing testing services) for Rio 2016. Going forward, this center will be located in Madrid. As for Canopy/IaaS, the creation of a centralized remote center in Madrid will remove equipment migration needs, and associated costs. And Atos is moving back its application management work (~25 FTEs supporting its software products) from the host city to Barcelona.

What will remain in the host city is the Technical Operating Center (TOC), a command and control center providing IT infrastructure management, service desk, project management, security services. The TOC is significant (500 personnel of Atos, IOC and technology partners, over three shifts, operating 24/7 during the Games) but still needs to be onsite in the host city at this point.

The IOC is rebalancing its budgets towards digital, starting with mobility. In the London 2012 Games: just 1% of information was accessed through mobile. In Sochi, this number reached 80%! Rio will be the Games where visitors will attend one competition in one venue while accessing results of another competition on their smart phones. In total, ~8bn devices will at some point during the Rio 2016 Games access information provided by Atos Major Events.

In addition to mobility, Atos Major Events is working on integration with social media, and is investing in its media player (for streaming video, audio and data). It is also refreshing its software products to make them further user-friendly to the different communities and the media in priority.

What Else Will We See Next?

Digital will continue to be a priority for IOC, extending from mobile services to wearables and IOT (and therefore big data).

Another big digital push is services to the media and broadcasting industry. Provisioning of some level of media content is part of the plans.

To some degree, Atos is leveraging Atos Major Events capabilities in other units: certainly, in security, Major Units and the Big Data & Security unit are collaborating on methodologies, common IT architectures, and also on security scenarios.

There is also an element of cross-selling with the usage of Atos Bull SIAM software products and Bull Hoox encrypted phones. Looking ahead, Atos is considering using software products from its Unify subsidiary.

Our understanding is that Major Events is currently self-contained and uses the larger Atos, apart from security collaboration, on sourcing talent, for instance around testing. Will we see more experience sharing from Atos Major Events to the wider Atos? As Atos focuses more and more on being an integrated firm, to accelerate organic growth, this may happen. We also expect to see Major Events benefit from Atos’ investments in automation and AI over the next few years.

We would have liked to have heard more about plans around big data, analytics, AI and content, suspect that Atos is constrained contractually to disclose much about these.

In summary, the Olympic Games are a wonderful opportunity for Atos to showcase its capabilities around SIAM, project management, testing and security services, and to demonstrate it successfully handles scale, complexity and uncertainty, each time in a new location, every four years.

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