Management of large-scale events made easy

How are the biggest events in the world organised? Follow Innovation spoke to Peter Ward, Director of WeTrack, to find out how they are helping large events benefit from better management tools. Having been to many seamless events, we had never really considered the scale of work that must go on behind the scenes, so we wanted to know how WeTrack came about. Peter explained:

“At London 2012, I was sat in the middle of the project management office. There were 30 of us putting plans into MS Project and thousands of spreadsheets. These were all sent to the event managers on the ground, who weren’t trained in project management and so couldn’t use them in that format, so another group of project managers had to translate them back out, and try to update a list they didn’t really own. Then when it was time to report to governance, they didn’t use these tools either so it was translated again for them. In the end it meant there was a lot of duplication and confusion. So I spoke to the head of the Olympic park and asked if we could take the principles of what was happening and turn them into one easy-to-use tool, would that be valuable? And it all began from there”

WeTrack is a project management and readiness tool, which means it provides all the things you need to pull off a large or major event. It allows organisers to track tasks, identify and monitor risks and incidents, and view what’s going on in real time. A key feature is that it’s web-based, so those involved can access the information from any device. It sounds like a perfect solution, but also a big change to a fairly traditional industry. We wanted to know how project managers themselves felt about a new tool that they’d worked perfectly well without for all these years:

“Our biggest competitors are Excel, Project, and apathy,” Peter told us, “people get through the serious stress of organising a big yearly event, they take a couple of months off and then they are straight back into organising the next one. This cycle means it’s often the default to do it the same way you did previously. However there are two things changing that; firstly there is government legislation coming in the UK which requires more on health and safety monitoring and better audit trails. Secondly there’s the new guard working in the industry, young people who are keen on tech and more open to new ideas.”

WeTrack are making the most of this latter point; they have a programme called WeTrack academy where they run training sessions for people studying event management at University. They don’t focus on the software itself but teach the general skills needed to project manage these large events. Once those students go into the workplace, they then serve as brand ambassadors.

The growth strategy that WeTrack has adopted is to go after big events; the Ryder cup was their first customer. Getting events of this size is an achievement in itself, but then ensuring that the software can be used by the huge number of people involved is vital.

“We’ve brought the training time down significantly, we can train a basic user in about an hour and an admin user in about 4 hours. Where we do face some resistance is in people who have a specific task, like building the scaffolding, and don’t feel they need or care about software”

To solve this, WeTrack aims to provide value to these users, by providing them with information about tasks that they are dependent on. With that as the ‘carrot’, it also provides a ‘stick’, by holding them accountable to complete tasks on the platform and giving the ability to notify their boss if these tasks aren’t completed, or aren’t noted as completed in the app.

So what began as an idea at the Olympics 5 years ago is now a fully operational business. We asked Peter about the journey from there to today.

“I wrote the initial wireframes in the pub, and then a designer friend of mine mocked them up. After that I was introduced to a few people to join the coding team and it all went from there. We made a decision at the start to focus on the mega events, we’ve got 3 of the 10 biggest events in the UK on our list and I want to get the other 7 by the end of 2018. But, we’ve kept growth quite linear for now. We’re not going to be like Snapchat where we grow rapidly to millions of users per month, but actually we don’t need to be. When we start scaling, it will be vital that we have the training right, so we’re focusing on perfecting that.”

The tactic seems to be working. Project management is a trust based community and so the word slowly spreads about WeTrack, and Peter told me that already they get new business from people who have used it previously and actually approach them for the next event – providing a very low cost of acquisition!

So having made an idea into a reality, and watching it slowly grow up, we asked Peter what he would say to people wanting to do the same.

“I really like the concept of grit, and instilling that in people,” he responded, “it’s easy to have a vision and think yeah I’m going to get the growth and get series A and B funding without any problems. It’s basically too easy to look at the newspapers reports of companies with 7000% growth each month, but actually you will face challenges along the way. Don’t compare yourselves to what you read about, just stay lean and show grit because once you’ve made it through the challenges the success will come”

You can see more of WeTrack on their website, and probably at an event near you soon.