Project Management

The systems and solutions of the gaming industry have changed, but the method of acquiring/building, installing, testing, and going live have not changed.  It requires a Project Manager that has an acute attention to detail, a get-it-done personality, ability to work with others and strong technology skills.  Overseeing the management of projects is not necessarily a job that is showered with praise, appreciation and popularity.  Rarely do those charged with the oversight of getting core project initiatives delivered find their efforts applauded or rewarded throughout the organization.  The old adage, “You can please some of the people some of the time but you can’t please all of the people all of the time, and you can never please marketing.” comes to mind when it comes to those responsible for getting projects done; especially in the instant gratification world of casino gaming.

Interestingly enough, most the pain felt by project management executives are self-induced if not self-inflicted.  All too often the project manager forgets their prime directive; to ensure that the projects assets of the organization are properly evaluated, prioritized and completed using appropriate resources, following replicable processes, tools and techniques in a way that is in compliance with good governance.  In other words, being on-time and on-budget.  Unfortunately, all-too-often the governance part becomes bureaucratic to the point of negating the first part of that directive.  When this happens the project manager becomes a hindrance to the project process; causing projects to lag endlessly, overrunning budgets, and lowering if not destroying the ROI of the project.

Within the gaming industry there is little to no tolerance for failures when it comes to squandering capital dollars on projects the fall short of delivering the value promised.  Project managers need to be more than just competent at the technical aspects of their job; they need to be collaborative facilitators of successful change and astute business leaders.  Here are some approaches used by successful project managers:

  • Streamline project processes to eliminate unnecessary paperwork, meetings and anything bureaucratic in nature.This is easier said than done, but can be accomplished by justifying why some of these elements are not required (e.g., duplicative, schedule impact, low value, etc.);
  • Provide proactive oversight to insure that projects are conducted in compliance with governance standards.Identify risks early and create mitigation plans.Mitigation plans are the insurance policy you can’t live without;
  • Spend time with key stakeholders every week to keep them apprised of project progress and status.LISTEN to their feedback, concerns and needs;
  • Provide USEFUL project administrative support, guidance and tools to project teams.When someone needs something, work to provide the information, resource, tool, feedback or approval as quickly as possible;
  • Deliver projects ahead of schedule so that the associated ROI can begin sooner than planned.Again, often easier said than done, but proper planning can allow this to happen.Remember another old adage, “Under-promise and Over-deliver”.Too often, people are too eager to please and over-promise and under-deliver, something that can be a career ender.

There are two types of project managers in the world: the “follow every rule” bureaucrat and the seasoned “self-taught” expert that acts like a project cowboy instead of a project manager.   Here are two approaches to overcome the behavior:

  • Bureaucratic Project Manager – Some project managers find it difficult to assimilate into organizations.  Most project managers by their nature tend to be very goal driven and that can be perceived as pushy and uncaring about the needs of others.  Project managers need to cultivate a good bed-side-manner to increase their chances of being embraced by the organization.  They need to build a relationship with team members and earn their trust.  They need to manage each team member as an individual, listening to their needs and supporting their professional and personal lives.  Most of all they need judgment, the ability to know when to flex the rules in favor of success.
  • Project Manager CowboyResistance to following established standards – This is especially true for project managers with a lot of years of experience under their belts; mostly self-taught.  Unfortunately, within the gaming industry many PMs have been left to their own devices to deliver projects and the successful ones tend not to want to change their ways.  To overcome this resistance, the leadership needs to engage these “experts” in the crafting of project standards.  Getting their buy-in can deliver support and compliance to the standards developed.

This may be more difficult than it appears for some PM’s.  The savvy PM executive will make every effort to position their organization to avoid any semblance of a bureaucracy or elitism.

Understanding and internalizing the expectation that approved projects need to be completed successfully (achieve their intended outcome) will serve the project management leadership well.  Knowing when and where to take shortcuts and bypass protocols is essential to the process.  The PM executive cannot afford to run on autopilot if they are to fulfill their charge to the organization and its stakeholders.  Good and prudent governance requires the exercise of judgment and not blind adherence to a set of rules that may not always serve the organization’s best interests.

So while the technology and the systems may (or in some cases, may not) have changed over the years, accountability for successful implementations still rests with the project manager.  In short, like businesses today, the project manager needs to be able to adapt to the ever-changing environment, use what they need, discard what they don’t need, and make the business successful.