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The COVID-Induced Perils of Entertainment Technology

Although the past years have been challenging, compelling stories of human ingenuity, innovation, and creativity occurred. One such story comes from the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for Merlin Entertainments, Lee Cowie. In this article, he discusses how he tackled the challenges and duties of a new CTO during the pandemic. At Merlin, the world’s second-largest operator of family entertainment centers, Cowie is implementing a tech-enabled corporate transformation. It includes Legoland, Sea Life Aquariums, Warwick Castle, and Alton Towers, among other resorts, hotels, and tourist destinations. In the article at Computer Weekly, Mark Samuels interviews Lee Cowie about the transition of entertainment technology.

Digitalizing the Entertainment Technology

Cowie oversees Merlin’s global IT strategy and all entertainment technology initiatives to augment business capabilities.

Amongst several, Cowie’s key achievements are the e-commerce deployments across 128 sites in 25 countries. It ranges from self-service checkout kiosk implementations at Merlin venues around the world to governing and controlling over 90 international entertainment technology initiatives. He has a very diverse role and team with a presence in the UK, the US, Europe, and Asia-Pacific.

Challenges of a CTO in the Entertainment Industry

Despite all his successes, Cowie acknowledges that being a CTO has not been easy. He has an “overarching vision” for adopting advanced technology change to amplify business. However, the pandemic had a profound impact on priorities. According to Cowie, the corporation had just one attraction open worldwide at one time during the pandemic. Cowie and his IT colleagues collaborated with the company to develop new business models and implement remote working for employees. He discusses how the pandemic had brought his company to a grinding halt leaving the company with zero revenue. Cowie’s team had to spin something quickly to generate new revenue streams online. They sold mementos and fan items to revive the business. 

Upscaling Systems

In addition to this creativity, Cowie’s team had many significant technical initiatives to modernize Merlin’s back-end infrastructure. The aim of upscaling the entertainment technology was to provide customers with a more tailored and unique experience on every visit. In addition, the digital transition to robust systems helped them remain competitive and maintain their market hold.

The author also speaks about enhancing the customer experience and the benefits of business digitization.

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