Recent changes to IT organizations mostly have consisted of downsizing by eliminating redundancy or non-essential positions to save money. But new technologies are requiring IT organizations to rethink their skill sets and organizational structures and not just their staffing levels.
Companies are now
more focused on Web solutions, Web sites, social media, mobile solutions and
self-service. And gaming companies have additional new technologies such as
server-based gaming, mobile gaming and online gaming, which require new and
unique talents not commonly found in the job market.
I remember a time not too long ago when the elderly
COBOL programmer in the corner of the IT
department was fast being replaced by the young RGP programmer.
(Recognize this vernacular from your ancient history class?) Now the RPG
programmer is being replaced by the HTML coder.
Many casino resorts
are still understanding how to best use these technologies in their operations,
so IT leaders are just cherry-picking people and inserting them into their
organizations as needed. But how do we fit these new solutions into existing IT
organizations? Is it as easy as just dropping them into an existing box in the org
chart? Or are there other considerations that we need to take into account? As
we move from a group that supports traditional solutions such as Infinium,
Agilysys, IGT and Mariposa to one that also supports Facebook, Twitter, Control
4, Oracle, IGT sb, Cantor Gaming’s mobile gaming eDeck and the OpenWays app
that uses mobile phones to open hotel room doors, we need a new bunch of boxes
in the org chart - and maybe a whole new org chart.
Web 2.0 and Design
Thinking are an integral part of making these new technologies work, and they
don’t necessarily fit with the traditional IT department. The trend is moving
away from a focus on speed and performance to a focus on collaboration,
conversation and co-creation. The age-old problem of having IT work hand in
hand with other departments will disappear as the very foundation of these new
technologies requires collaboration with other departments. Can you imagine IT
working alone to create a Facebook page or Tweet about some recent event at the
casino? I don’t think customers would be too excited to hear about the new
implementation of 4 Intel 2 socket Xeon servers!
Except for a few new properties on the horizon, such as
Cosmopolitan, Revel and Fontainebleau (which I believe all will be completed,
eventually, and some sooner rather than later), it will be exceedingly
difficult to transform an existing IT organization - but not impossible.
Cosmopolitan, led by IT veteran and CIO Marshall Andrew, will open later this
year and will be a model for building the IT organization of tomorrow (if the
owners don’t impose any archaic requirements on him).
But existing organizations will find it quite a
challenge to reinvent themselves in order to embrace and exploit these new
technologies. Their leaders will be faced with the choice of whether to blow up
the entire division and create a brand new org chart or to slowly evolve their
organizations into ones that can support these new solutions. Of course, this
decision is a “when” and “how,” not an “if”. The changes are upon us, and some
gaming companies have already embraced many of them. Larger, more successful companies will most likely fast-track the changes by necessity, working just to keep up
with the pace of change, which is often dictated by the operating departments,
usually marketing. Smaller,
single-property companies teetering on the brink of bankruptcy (and larger
multiple-property companies already in bankruptcy) also won’t have much choice -
they’ll be in a holding pattern until they
are back on their feet financially or are acquired. But the casino companies in between are the
ones faced with a choice. They may have some
of these technologies already implemented and are considering more in
order to stay competitive. Larger tribal casinos and jurisdictional commercial
casinos fall into this category and have already started the migration to the
new IT organization.
Building this new
organization will require a good deal of research. The traditional roles of
business analyst, network support, IT specialist, programmer, operator, etc.,
will fade away and be replaced by titles such as Web designer, IT engineer and
social media ninja (although I’m not completely sold on the “ninja” title
Understanding the goals and business objectives of your
company is the first step.
The next step is to understand the technologies and the
skills required to implement and execute them. Don’t underestimate the
resources you will need to support that new application (i.e., don’t believe
the sales people).
Finally, work to understand the potential of these new solutions and how they can be applied at
your property. Here’s your chance to be innovative
and demonstrate that you can think
creatively and differently than your
competition. Contemplate those uses and the people you’ll need to make
Now all you have to do is sell the whole concept to the
Scheri is founder
and managing director of WhiteSand Gaming, a leading global services firm
providing casino and resort management and consulting services
to a substantial and diversified client base that includes gaming corporations,
regulatory agencies, tribal governments, lotteries, racetracks and resort
hotels. Scheri has more than 25
years of experience in gaming and hospitality. Prior to forming WhiteSand
he led the gaming consulting practices for PricewaterhouseCoopers and
KPMG Peat Marwick. He is the author of “The Casino’s Most Valuable Chip: How
Technology Transformed the Gaming Industry” (Institute for the History of
TECHNOLOGY: The IT organization of tomorrow
May 1, 2010