It’s more important than ever for casinos to ensure their technology platforms and IT software are compliant and up to date. The casino industry is rapidly changing with increased competition from online gaming and fantasy sports, new anti-money laundering regulations and growing cyber security threats.
Unfortunately, particularly for many older legacy casinos, existing technology and software systems may not be up to snuff. An IT assessment or audit of existing technology platforms by an independent third party or consultant can help identify areas where existing systems may be lacking and provide solutions on how to upgrade in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
IT Assessment or Technology Audit Benefits
Claudia Winkler of G.H.I. Solutions is one of the gaming industry’s most recognized and respected information technology experts, has written articles in numerous trade publications and is a highly sought after speaker at industry conferences. Winkler believes there are five major benefits casinos can realize from having an IT assessment or audit of their technology and computer systems.
Benefit 1: Provide an unfiltered review of the IT challenges and needs facing each department.
Individual departments often operate in their own silos. Department managers may not be aware of what other departments are doing or the challenges they face. In many instances, Winkler said several departments may experience many of the same challenges or issues with technology or IT systems. An independent IT consultant can talk to employees in multiple departments to identify software or technology issues that may hinder productivity across the organization. Often times, the problem may be a simple training or configuration issue which easily can be solved.
Winkler cited an example of a casino client who told her about a problem with several departments that were spending an excessive amount of time compiling monthly variance reports. After investigating the matter, she determined that it was mainly due to the fact that job codes and pay rates were not connected and visible to the managers. “It was a$2,500 fix and it saved the client hundreds of man hours per year,” Winkler said. “None of the departments were aware that other departments were experiencing the same issue.”
Benefit 2: Identify areas where IT organizational charts and job descriptions need to be updated.
In many organizations, IT org charts and job descriptions are seriously outdated. Winkler said she talks to clients who still refer to their IT departments as MIS (management information systems) departments, even though the role of IT is much more sophisticated than it was 15 or 20 years ago. In today’s technology environment, Winkler said casinos need a wide array of IT support, such as business system analysts, database administrators, network engineers and wireless technology specialists. An IT audit can help management assess whether employees’ current duties fit their job description, and whether they have the necessary skills to perform their jobs. It also can help determine if employees are in the role they want to be in the organization, or whether they aspire to a management position, Winkler said. An IT assessment also provides a way to evaluate pay rates to see how they compare with peers in other departments or with competitors.
Benefit 3: Keep up to date with the latest software and hardware.
Casinos rely on player tracking and slot accounting software, for marketing, promotions and to ensure proper accounting and cash management. While most organizations will pay for software maintenance, Winkler said leadership often makes the decision to forego or defer needed software upgrades because of implementation costs or because it’s inconvenient to business operations at the time. With rapid changes in technology, she said deferring upgrades can cause casinos to fall behind competitors, and upgrading software that is outdated may prove costlier in the long run. “Understanding the impact of not doing an upgrade can be an eye opening discussion, ”Winkler said. “In many cases, after learning about the new functionality or the cost to ‘wait and do it later,’ leadership will make a different decision.”
Perhaps more importantly, casinos that fail to make necessary upgrades to these systems place themselves at greater risk for data breaches or cyberattacks. A lack of security in IT systems could potentially compromise sensitive private customer data or company trade secrets. An independent third-party IT assessment can help casinos identify security risks or vulnerabilities with their computer software and hardware that internal IT staff may have overlooked.
Benefit 4: Identify areas where employees from various departments need refresher training in IT applications and where IT staff needs training in new technologies.
Organizations often will install new software or even purchase a completely new computer system with only a marginal investment in training employees on how to properly use it, Winkler said. Training dollars are often limited, but failure to properly train employees in the use of new technology often means the capabilities of new software or computer systems are never fully realized. Many times, new employees join an organization, but are never properly trained how to use existing technology. Lack of training in the use of technology can lead to employee frustration and high turnover. An assessment can help management identify what the company’s immediate training needs are and develop a realistic timetable for future training. “Consistent refresher training for employees and updates/renewals of key IT certifications are critical to the organization’s continued success,” Winkler said.
Benefit 5: Make leadership aware of new technology or software that may be available.
Often times, casino executives and upper management are unaware of how outdated some of their systems are, Winkler said. IT staff may not have the budget or feel uncomfortable asking management for more money for costly system upgrades. Casinos also maybe unaware of new technology that could improve their operations and efficiency while reducing costs. An IT assessment gives organizations a 360-degree review of how existing software, services and infrastructure stack up with competitors, Winkler said. An assessment can provide management with a better understanding of the pros and cons associated with implementing a new solution. It also can serve as a road map for making future expenditures for planned system upgrades that fit within the organization’s budget.
Debra Chase is vice president of business development-gaming solutions for OnCourseLearning. She has worked in the gaming industry for more than 22 years with a focus on compliance, regulatory training, customer service and sales. She can be reached at (775) 741-0999 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.