“Three years ago, our largest event was a small multi-sport competition with 15,000 accreditations,” says Johann Woringer, founder and chief executive of Wiz-Team. “Last year, we did the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games with over 80,000 accreditations and other major international sport events with up to 400,000 accreditations.”
It has been quite the rise for the Lausanne-based event consultancy and data management company since its creation in 2012. More than 200 events and millions of delegates later, Wiz-Team now provides its services for an eclectic array of events, including major gatherings in the Olympic Movement and championships organised by European Athletics, the International Basketball Federation (Fiba) and the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), amongst many more.
At its core, Wiz-Team, which also has subsidiaries in Belgium, Italy and Ukraine, offers a variety of event management solutions, spearheaded by its all-in-one ‘Event-Works’ platform, which supports professionals in key areas like online registration, accommodation, travel, online payments and accreditation.
Designed by event managers for event managers, Event-Works and Wiz-Team’s other tools have been assembled to deliver real-world solutions for whatever project they are used on. The company came into existence after Woringer (right) noticed the absence of a platform in the market that could handle data management for events. He was compelled to build a solution on FileMaker Pro two decades ago for his employer, which was effectively Genesis for what Wiz-Team’s commercial product is today.
“You can scale [our product] based on the needs of the client,” explains Danielle Lopez, Wiz-Team’s head of global sales and business development.
“A lot of times people ask us, ‘who are your competitors?’ It depends, because we have the unique ability to position ourselves as a global integrated solution, or a specialised solution with a more narrow focus.
“Our product evolves over time. We don’t custom build things for individuals. But we custom configure. We tailor the solution to meet the needs of the clients.
“The tailoring is done not just by developers. One of the things that Johann has done is seek event managers who shared his passion for finding solutions to day-to-day frustrations in event management, and who wanted to be part of defining how events are delivered through technology in the future.”
For Wiz-Team, it is not about telling its clients how something should be done. Rather, it’s about asking what they want to do.
“We have a very functional approach,” says Tim Goethals, Wiz-Team’s chief operating officer. “We come in with a very people-centric approach.
“Providing a system is one thing, but you need to align your people and your processes in order for it to work.
“We are providing a configuration tool. If you look at our traditional competitors in the market, they are coming in with a development approach. You don’t have to develop [our product]. It is an off the shelf product.
“This allows us to deploy and implement a new project extremely quickly.”
Tim Goethals, Wiz-Team’s chief operating officer, says the company has a “very people-centric approach”
Delivering for the Olympic Movement
One example of Wiz-Team being put to the test came in December 2019, when it was tasked with supporting boxing qualifying tournaments for Tokyo 2020. The initial discussion period leading up to the company’s product being deployed to manage registrations was less than two weeks. That sharp turnaround, according to Goethals, reflects the nature of the industry today.
“The traditional way of doing things, which is building custom [solutions] for projects, no longer works,” he says. “It’s no longer adequate with the requirements in a super-fast changing environment.”
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Wiz-Team worked with international federations (IFs) and international sport organisations, as well as governmental and non-governmental institutions, who used the company’s product for general assemblies, competitions, and other small to mid-sized annual events.
Our product evolves over time. We don’t custom build things for individuals. But we custom configure. We tailor the solution to meet the needs of the clients.Danielle Lopez, Head of Global Sales and Business Development, Wiz-Team
The company has since branched out further into the event management space. Its future projects include accreditation and other services for World Cups and the Commonwealth Games, as well as working with several national Olympic committees (NOCs).
Wiz-Team’s involvement, though, can extend far deeper.
“The world of events is massive,” says Lopez. “You’ve got the core stakeholders of events, like NOCs, national federations, or teams. Then we’ve got the rights holders themselves who need to actually launch all of these things.
“But around all of these sports events, there are a ton of people who are involved in things like guest hospitality or other peripheral events. So even though the sport property itself is one of those stakeholders, we can service the whole stakeholder portfolio.”
The requirements for any event, be it access control, ticketing or travel, are extensive and varied. Wiz-Team’s tool has been built to service those demands, ensuring every angle is covered. The company is comfortable being challenged by clients to configure its product to meet their needs because it wants to be seen as an advisor rather than just a service provider.
“We really link arms with them and move forward with them versus sitting on the sidelines,” adds Lopez.
European Athletics is another Wiz-Team client
Tooling up during tough times
It would be remiss not to mention the pandemic given its decimation of the sporting calendar. Fortunately for Wiz-Team, it had clients outside of sport to help mitigate the financial impact and even managed to grow its team during lockdown. It also found time to develop its tools.
“We really invested in people and our core product,” says Woringer. “Covid was a challenge. But it was also an opportunity to do things differently.
“It was a matter of saying, ‘OK, what are we going to do with this time? How are we going to balance growing while trying to save costs?’ There were still lots of uncertainties. Retrospectively, if we could go back in time, I’m not sure we would have done a lot of things differently.
“So that was a bit of instinct, a bit of luck, a bit of risk taking. I think, overall, we made the right decisions.”
Indeed, Woringer says Wiz-Team’s staff numbers doubled in size last year. The pandemic also offered a chance to get creative amid all the restrictions, including adapting the company’s product to provide information on who had been tested for Covid when events resumed.
“European Athletics went out and started having events again and they needed to do a significant amount of work around figuring out how to manage the demands and requirements of different government agencies in different countries,” Lopez says. “Then they’d have another event and it would all change.
We really invested in people and our core product. Covid was a challenge. But it was also an opportunity to do things differently.Johann Woringer, Chief Executive, Wiz-Team
“Instead of having to reinvent the wheel, or build a brand new tool, they didn’t have to assume a new cost. It was just changing the tool.
“What we learned very quickly is the power that we have to be able to adapt on the fly. What we saw in the industry in general is that people started to be more open to this. That brainstorming activity between providers and us was way more frequent.
“What we started to see, which we always want, is that our clients felt more empowered by the tool. They’ve been put in a box so much by technology in the past. What Covid really did is it forced everyone out of the box.
“Johann and the team have built a commercial product that allows us to redefine the box every single time there’s a new one.”
Wiz-Team was also on the ground to support the delivery of the Special Olympics World Games in Berlin
Managing people and product
Goethals describes 2022 as “a year of delivery” for Wiz-Team, one which included working on the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and culminated with Qatar 2022. He says 2023 will be “about structure”, specifically laying the right foundations for the company to thrive over the next decade.
Already with an international portfolio of clients, a branch in Australia is being eyed for later this year. At the end of 2022, as part of the company’s growth plan, Wiz-Team took on its first ever external investment from 11 strategic investors.
“We are still a privately-owned company,” continues Goethals. “We’re growing, we’re hiring people. We have some big projects coming up. So we need to hire ahead of the curve. This is where we need that money for.
“Moving forward, we’re probably going to have another round of investment.”
Wiz-Team’s global ambitions are matched by the diversity of its workforce, which includes more than ten nationalities and 18 spoken languages, helping the company to forge relationships with clients around the world.
“Our leadership team is 50-50 split on gender,” adds Lopez. “When you talk about events and our clients that are global in nature, it is so important to be able to understand and reach them at their level. This idea of creating diversity within our teams and being able to reach our clients at a different level than a typical provider, that’s an important element of our service.
Lopez also highlights Wiz-Team’s on-site support for clients to ensure they can make the best use of the company’s tools. More broadly, she believes operational technology for events is shifting significantly.
“The incumbents that have been here for decades on this old model are starting to be pushed out, or at least are deciding to rethink how they approach this technology,” says Lopez (right).
“Event agencies are starting to see that you can save a lot of money, time and energy if you maximise the efficiency behind the house. This is where the generations are starting to shift to.
“We’re starting to get people who have grown up with a cell phone in their hand. The younger generation are now using the tools to run these events and they’re frustrated. I think they’re starting to see and be challenged internally in their own organisations about how they approach their operations and what tools they use within that.
“We can speak in their language. We can sit next to them on the table instead of across from them.”
Developing the product’s features for use at some of the world’s biggest sporting gatherings, as well as for a raft of other events and clients, is also a priority for Wiz-Team. Woringer acknowledges that fast-changing technology means he “cannot build a product for 2028 based on the technologies from two years ago”, a scenario that he says throws up some “interesting challenges”.
It would be easy to assume that Wiz-Team’s tech solutions would take centre stage for the company. However, while Woringer wants to carry on pushing the product’s capabilities, he plans to keep putting people first in order to retain a collaborative, innovative approach whatever event he and his team find themselves in the middle of.
Those values won’t change even as Wiz-Team continues to grow.
“These are all different people with a different culture, a different way of viewing things,” Woringer says. “It is about including this diversity and keeping the same culture where we work, but also be great at having fun while doing it.
“Managing this, both in terms of people and product, in order to accompany our growth and keep our DNA is what we’re focusing on.”