Fireside Chat With Gaming1

30 Apr 2024

by Stuart Armstrong

Belgium-based Gaming1 maintains a strong portfolio of both online and offline brands and partners across Europe. Founded in 1992 and headquartered in Liège, Belgium, the company has grown to include 1691 employees across 11 countries, including France, Portugal, Spain, and the Netherlands. 

The online casino and sports betting company has created more than 150 games with their mission to “offer the best possible gaming experience, geared to regulated markets, while favoring responsible behavior.”

We sat down with Dwight Matthys, Gaming1’s Architecture Director to discuss how the company has approached digital transformation, the role Enterprise Architecture (EA) has played, and how Ardoq has helped them bridge the gap between IT and business.

1. What main business opportunities do you see in your digital landscape?

First off, our industry relies heavily on an extremely fast time to market, which is of course relevant for almost all industries. 

However, as we are in the entertainment industry, we are selling responsible (real money) gaming entertainment which requires strong player experience and compelling entertainment capabilities. 

I want to emphasize our strong focus on responsible gaming. We believe gaming should always be enjoyable, providing entertainment without leading to any issues. Combined with our industry's negative image with regulators, our digital landscape needs to be able to absorb at least 2 things. 

First, it needs to be able to cope with regulations that are constantly evolving, and it surely needs to allow us to deliver stronger responsible gaming capabilities to our players. The ability to take each of our entertainment capabilities and embed them in the player journey is essential. On top of that, we also need to blend responsible gaming capabilities as a foundational pillar in our Target Architecture so they can be enabled in the player journeys. 

Furthermore, it is obvious that each company that went through rapid expansion has accumulated technical debt along the way. That is a good thing to have, as it brought our company to where it is today. However, the danger lies in not recognizing it,  which could get in the way of our business ambitions: to constantly put those next-level entertainment features into action for our players, while reducing the TTM to keep a steady cadence. 

In that context, it is understood that strengthening our core capabilities and journeys is a major opportunity too for our business. As described in a lot of EA literature, and what is to me common sense, if you have a stable foundation of your core features and processes, it allows you to deliver top-notch services to your players and provide operational excellence to  colleagues operating your platforms. 

Finally, every self-respecting Technology leader recognizes the potential that AI (generative and others) can bring to your landscape. That is why we have a strong focus on our analytical plane, which allows us to employ data at scale, turn it into meaningful semantics, and leverage AI on top to help to deliver, again, those compelling yet responsible entertainment features to our players and operating colleagues. 

In summary, a combination of strengthening our core processes, a sustainable clean-up of technical debt while still delivering value, allowing us to plug responsible gaming features in every part of the player journey or on top of our capabilities, and a proper analytical foundation, should give our company every tool needed to be able to sell next level entertainment to our players and be recognized as a serious responsible gaming provider.

2. What’s your organization’s key focus for digital transformation? 

As mentioned earlier, we have put a strong focus on looking at our capabilities and defining in which state they currently reside. Providing an assessment of the as-is and the fit-for-business-to-be state of these capabilities allows us to plot a path to transform them into stronger or more digital counterparts. 

However, as our online (or interactive) business is by nature a digital business, it is in our core for those parts to already be at a satisfactory level. I would describe the digital transformation applied to it as more like Top Gun: " You're the best of the best; we'll make you better." 

That is a tad exaggerated, but it captures the essentials. Our capabilities were already at a proficient level for our company to operate properly when we started this Digital Transformation. Of course, there was work to be done for each of them, but it was easy to take them forward from their starting state. As it is in our DNA to make it better, a status quo does not define us, so that is what you will find in the track record of our ongoing Digital Transformation. 

On the interactive landscape, our focus was very organization-oriented. We have plotted from our Capability Model how our operating model should be and overlaid it with the as-is. That allowed us to shift the organization towards a more business capability-oriented (we call it Domain-Driven) setup,  and that was a major milestone in our Digital Transformation. At this stage, we are applying a strong player experience angle in the organizational model, on top of what was laid out before. 

I would like to stress the fact that we did it all together, meaning Technology and Business in collaboration, which was an enormously powerful combo, leading to more success than we might have anticipated. 

The next frontier for us is to apply this EA mindset to our "support" functions such as Finance, HR and Legal. As any company is a network of capabilities, these "support" capabilities somehow are a logical connection point leading into the interactive business landscape.

A final focus point for our Digital Transformation is the aspect that we were able to get so far with our interactive business thanks to the strong land-based network we have in place via our physical casinos, gaming halls and betting terminals. It is only natural that therefore it is an integral part of our Digital Transformation to offer a proper and compelling omni-channel approach to our customers.

3. What is EA’s current role in the organization? 

I would dare to say that EA is at the core of our organization 3 years into this journey. We have created a strong awareness of what EA could bring, and our leadership team has acknowledged this to be a strong foundational pillar for the growth of the company. Architecture as such did not exist as an explicit practice, it was more an implicit practice with a stronger focus on Technology Architecture. 

However, it did not take long for me to see that the core group in Technology had an implicit Business Architecture reflex. So, introducing EA in a tangible way at the leadership level AND focusing with the core Technology group on the role of EA and the value a pragmatic practice could bring, was to my belief an essential factor for early success. We have spent ample amounts of time with our COO, COO Interactive, and other C-level Executives and Directors,  highlighting and practicing EA. 

It might sound like a straightforward journey, but even with all the bumps on the road and hoops we had to jump through, it was ever a positive, constructive path forward. The recognition that we were all in the same boat, trying to make it better, was a strong mindset enabler. 

That allowed us to grow our team to more than 20 practicing Architecture roles, ranging between Enterprise Architects, Principal Architects, and Domain Architects. But it does not stop there; by embedding Tech Leads into the organization, we have a strong link within the engineering practice, and it allows us to stay grounded in reality and execution. 

The addition of an Enterprise Architect with a pure business background was also an unbelievably valuable move. It was a bit of a jump into the unknown, but it all made sense. 
Today we are extending our wings to the support functions previously mentioned, to offer a full EA reflex on our thinking, and it looks exciting.

dwight matthys


"I am sure we will be able to bring the same value we brought to the business lines of the company, due to our pragmatic approach to EA: not too much talk in the tower but battling in the trenches and mud to make things go forward. Based on all of this, I would say that EA has become essential to the organization, as we are represented in almost all aspects of the business."

- Dwight Matthys, Architecture Director at Gaming1


4. What advice would you give to other organizations who are in the beginning of modernizing their digital landscape?

It is essential to recognize the place of EA and the benefit it can bring to the organization. Judging from experience, it is best to approach it from a non-Technology perspective, for two reasons. 

One, the inherent design of the organization is non-technical by nature, so approaching it from that angle allows you to connect to Business stakeholders and translate what they have in their minds into a digitalized version.

Secondly, tooling (applications, components, etc.) is a means to an end. It is often perceived as “the” solution, but in essence, it is a translation from the business architecture design to a technical implementation. That means if you do not solve the business architecture, you are bound to end up in a bad place concerning the overall solution, due to trying to enforce it via technical design. 

That is where most digitalization efforts get it wrong, to my honest belief. However, for Technology teams it is easy to just  “blindly” translate what is requested into technology implementations. It is inherently harder to get to know the business at a deep level, rationalize it to a point that you can reason on it, and then approach the problems the business is facing with this business focus. Basically, I tell all my Architects to think about it like we were in the 1900s and solve the issue using pen, paper, and humans. 

But as said before, that is a hard job and in my experience, unfortunately, Technology people take the lazy route. And as such, that most likely results in the wrong solution, further deepening the gap between Business and Technology due to failed transformation efforts. That I think is the main reason for so many failed attempts and money wasted in transformation programs. 

"Focus on your business architecture, focus on understanding your processes and journeys, identify pain and low-hanging fruits, and build from the landscape you have towards the future you need."

- Dwight Matthys

All too often separate teams or technological solutions are seen as the way out. Third-party vendors will promise the world and they are good at marketing this belief, as it sells easily. Do not fall for that, invest in good Enterprise Architects, and let them practice EA. The rest will follow from there. But indeed, it is not for the faint-hearted! 

5. How has Ardoq helped to bridge IT and business? Can you give some examples?

We still have a long path to walk. Mainly because we were so focused on being close to the business, but also because of a strong belief that the essential aspect of that bridge is not the platform itself per se. What was essential was an EA approach aligned to the business, not the business aligned to the EA approach— although in the initial stages, I am sure sometimes it felt like that to them. 

When all of that is established, the digitalization of the EA practice starts to shine when enabling it with a platform like Ardoq. It allowed us to articulate the Product feature map in a straightforward way to the business while still allowing us to connect to a vast amount of more technology-oriented aspects. This Product feature map enabled us to understand the real gap in a major transformation effort for our customer-facing channels. 

Also, capturing the Capability Map and allowing anyone to use it is a great step forward in that perspective. There is still a lot to enable from here, but setting up focus sessions on that was essential to making it grow. 

Recently, we onboarded conversations with Procurement about the usage of Ardoq as a gate in the procurement process for buying tools and applications. Also, the application catalog was an essential piece in a recent cost rationalization effort we made together with our Finance and M&A colleagues. 

In conclusion, we have a very promising roadmap when it comes to EA. We still have a lot of ground to cover but Ardoq is vital to the success of that roadmap as it allows us to digitalize our EA practice. We refer to the North Star with Ardoq as our EA-as-a-Service!

Thank you, Dwight for your time and insights.

New Call-to-action

More to Explore
Stuart Armstrong Stuart Armstrong Stuart is a Senior Content Writer at Ardoq. He specializes in making the complex accessible. And puns.
Ardoq Insights & Events

Subscribe to Ardoq's Newsletter

A monthly digest of the latest news, articles, and resources.