Recent changes to the IT organization have mostly consisted of downsizing by eliminating redundancy or non-essential positions in order to save money. But more recent changes in technologies are requiring IT organizations to change the skill sets and organizational structure of their division instead of just staffing levels. Companies are now more focused on web solutions, websites, social media, mobile solutions and self-service than on traditional solutions. 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 on 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 (do you younger folks recognize those vernacular from your ancient history class?). Now the RPG programmer is being replaced by the HTML coder.
Many casino resorts are still just understanding how to best use these technologies in their operation, so IT leaders are just cherry-picking people and inserting them into their organization 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, Cantor Gaming’s mobile gaming eDeck, OpenWays app to use mobile phones to open hotel room doors, Oracle, and IGT sb, we need a whole new bunch of boxes in the org chart, and maybe a whole new org chart.
These new technologies do require a new way of thinking and a new approach to the IT organization. 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 operating 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 builds in our industry 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 for everyone else that is in an existing IT organization, it will be quite a challenge to re-invent themselves in order to embrace and exploit these new technologies.
Leaders of existing IT organizations will be faced with the decision of whether to blow up the entire division and create a brand new org chart or to slowly evolve their organization into one 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 these new technologies. Larger, more successful gaming companies will most likely fast-track the changes to their IT organization 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 casinos 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 bought. But the casino companies in between, the “tweeners” 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 IT organization will require a good deal of research in order to fully take advantage of the solutions. 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 whole “ninja” title yet!). Understanding the goals and business objectives of your company is the first step. How forward thinking will the owners/executives be with these new technologies? Is there money in the IT budget for these new technologies? What is your competition doing? The next step is to understand the technology and the skills required to implement and execute the technology. Don’t underestimate the resources that you will need to support that new application (i.e., don’t believe the sales people!). We all know how much money has been spent on new solutions that sit on the shelf because we couldn’t hire 3-4 experienced professionals to support the effort. 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 it happen. Now all you have to do is sell the whole concept to the executive committee!