Microsoft award winner rejuvenates Tourism Australia

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Microsoft award winner rejuvenates Tourism Australia

More than 30 years since Paul Hogan famously promised to "slip an extra shrimp on the barbie" for visitors to our shores, Melbourne firm BizData has helped upgrade the technology behind Australian tourism marketing.

The award-winning Microsoft partner has put in place a digital dashboard using PowerBI that is being used to manage how marketing dollars are spent by Tourism Australia.

The system has allowed Tourism Australia to abandon the headache of using a myriad of Excel spreadsheets and Word documents to track how their famous, and not-so-famous campaigns perform.

The work was part of a large back office IT overhaul in which UXC Eclipse was a key player, but more was detailed this week about the part BizData has played in changing the way tourism dollars are spent.

Previously, tourism forecasting, campaign planning and analytics data was scattered in more than 200 files in offices around the world.

Now, teams sit down with Microsoft Surfaces (and in some cases iPads) to look at interactive dashboards that show, for example, how much was spent on an advertising campaign in China and how much Internet traffic to Tourism Australia resulted.

The system also pulls in data about immigration, visitor arrivals and departures, including how much visitors spent in Australia using information supplied from travellers. Social media feeds including Twitter and Facebook can also be monitored through the dashboard.

The information was previously collated into 120 pages for meetings, said Tourism Australia's chief financial officer John Mackenney.

"I now run the entire business off six Powerview dashboards," he said. The data is available to everyone in the organisation, including the receptionist.

The result is the ability to move marketing faster than in the days of Paul Hogan's famous barbecue TV spot. A campaign might be orchestrated from Shanghai and New York, but Mackenney says that "an hour later I can be sitting at my desk and I can understand what's happening with that money. That's really where the power comes from...being able to move at speed".

"Now, if a banner ad isn't working on a particular publisher [web site] we change it out. Otherwise we're burning cash and I'm not selling the country effectively," he said.

Tourism Australia already used Microsoft Dynamics and Adobe analytics tools, but it wanted more than what Dynamics' out of the box reporting could provide. BizData was brought in, starting with a "traditional" stack including Sharepoint and SQL, then setting up a business intelligence topology on Azure. 

Tourism Australia has been progressively moving applications onto Azure - it currently uses Office 365, Sharepoint Online and Dynamics CRM Online, as well as having various test and development environments in Azure. It is also looking at Microsoft's platform-as-a-service offering. The Australia.com website, meanwhile, is hosted on AWS.

The end result is a single view for data capture, budgeting and forecasting as well as self-service analytics that covers 17 different markets.

BizData also combined Power BI with HDInsight and Storm to give Tourism Australia staff  the ability to create dashboards they can view on their phones. Previously they had to upload data and wait for analysts to produce reports.

BizData was one of only three Australian companies - along with Readify and Kloud - to win a global Microsoft partner award this year. The solutions provider won the Business Intelligence category specifically for its work with Tourism Australia.

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