TECHNOLOGY: The IT organization of tomorrow
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 yet).
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 them happen.
Now all you have to do is sell the whole concept to the executive committee!
Saverio 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, 2005).