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ADVISORY PANEL: A Q&A with Andrew McManus

Last month, Andrew McManus was unveiled as one of the latest additions to the expert Advisory Panel for the inaugural Ticketing Technology Forum.

Andrew serves as IT Director at The NEC Group – which operates and manages two concert venues (the LG Arena and the National Indoor Arena), the UK’s largest Exhibition Centre (the NEC), as well as the International Convention Centre in Birmingham and the Convention Centre in Dublin – and has been appointed to the Panel with a special responsibility for Live Entertainment Venues.

Andrew’s exclusive pre-Forum Discussion Paper, exploring how emerging technologies can help enhance venue operations, was published last week.

But what are Andrew’s motivations for getting involved with The Forum? Earlier today we caught up with him to ask just that…

Tell us a little about your current position:

AM: “Well, I’ve been at the NEC Group since 2007, and I’m the Group’s IT Director. The NEC Group has three main strands to our business. Of course we’re a venue, so one strand is live events and having big stages and arenas for promoters to fill with content. But we also have our own ticketing business, The Ticket Factory, which was launched in 2007 to help maximise ticket sales for our clients and also improve the ticket purchasing journey for our customers. And, thirdly, we have a catering business, Amadeus, which provides services for our own venues as well as a range of other venues around the UK. As IT Director for the Group, my responsibility is to develop, support and integrate technology across each of those three stands.”

Why are you getting involved in Ticketing Technology Forum 2013?

AM: “I was very keen to get involved for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I think that any Forum that allows people to come together and talk about how to use technology more effectively, and how to understand some of the key technological options in the marketplace is going to be a good thing. So, from a selfish point of view, I’m keen to learn from some of the key ticketing and technology organisations that will be at the Forum, and to create some good dialogue that can bring about improvements in what we do at the NEC Group. But I’m also keen to share our perspective, and some of our experiences of implementing technology to help grow our businesses, both from a venue perspective at the NEC Group, and from the perspective of The Ticket Factory.”

Your Discussion Paper explores some of the key opportunities presented by technological innovations, and how these can help improve venue operations. But what do you consider as the key challenges venues face in implementing new and emerging technologies?

AM: “Well, cost is, of course, a key consideration. A lot of venues in the UK, looking at the whole of the industry, are very old. Some of the arenas that were constructed in the 80s and 90s, for instance, are now at what I’d consider to be a critical refresh point. Some may need a lot of capital improvements, and technology can often be value engineered out of those jobs, for cost reasons.

But the other challenge is also bravery. As I mentioned in the Discussion Paper, there’s a lot of opportunities presented by modern technologies that allow people to do things very differently. It can take a little bravery as a venue operator, or as a ticketing business, or even as a supplier; to stop and say ‘There’s a better way of making money, or serving our customer, of putting on a live event, using technology’. It’s sometimes a brave step to try something new, but technology now allows organisations to create some fantastic opportunities for the customer, and can really help us to create some great value for a whole range of people.”

How will Ticketing Technology Forum help overcome these challenges?

AM: “When it comes to technology, everyone has the same challenges. So, anything that brings people together to share war stories and wounds, but also share our successes, is going to be a good thing. There are very few Forums that exist for people in my shoes to get together and talk about how we can implement technology, and operate our business more effectively. There’s a lot of competition out there, but generally, when we talk to other venues that are, geographically-speaking, miles away from us, they’re not necessarily competitors; they’re people that may be able to help us to get it right. So, Ticketing Technology Forum is going to be a great opportunity to speak with people in our sector that are facing the same problems we are, and who have the same goals that we have, and a chance for us all to look at what technology is out there in the marketplace, and how we can use that more effectively for our organisations. I’m really looking forward to it!

Ticketing Technology Forum 2013 explores, debates and showcases the latest trends, innovations and technologies that will deliver the next generation of live entertainment ticketing solutions.




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