Lessons learned as an operator, vendor and consultant
Over my 30+ year career, I have been the client, the vendor and the consultant. Having the experience in all three roles as an “influencer,” I learned many lessons. I could write a book – but unfortunately, I do not think it would be a best seller. Why? Because we all have to learn our own lessons.
Having opened casinos, managed change of control projects and facilitated the selection, implementation and upgrades to hundreds of systems, I have the advantage of seeing how decisions affect outcomes – good ones and not so good ones. For the past 16+ years, I have been and continue to be the consultant. Clients always make the final decision. It’s their money and time. I have also been the vendor or business development agent for new technology and have learned that every organization is truly unique. And in my early career in the gaming and hospitality industry, my role was the client (operator) for several major commercial gaming organizations. It was my responsibility to research the options, identify solutions and make recommendations to executive management.
And so it goes that my clients can and have overridden my sincere professional advice and many times have come back with, “Sorry, you were right.” Following are three case studies that might give you pause the next time you’re given information from a resource.
Case Study #1: We got it covered.
My team was engaged to project manage the replacement of a casino management system. The marketing department was responsible for the overall player communication. No problems came up when it came to obvious tasks that should be called out on the project plan, such as the printing and replacement of loyalty cards and attendance in the training classes. The one area where we disagreed was on the player communication requirements. Our recommendation was to have danglers, rack cards and tons of signage on the EGMs and prominently displayed throughout the casino and adjoining areas. Marketing said, “We’ve got it covered” and did not want the checklist to be included in the project plan. And marketing did execute, up to a point. The materials were ordered. However, there was limited communication with the receiving department related to what to do with the contents of the boxes and when they needed to be deployed. As a result, the night of the conversion, a frantic search commenced to locate the boxes and get the materials distributed. Fast forward – the VP of Marketing and I run into each other at a conference and he says, “I owe you an apology. I thought you were a scaremonger and I painfully found out that you were right! If we had the checklist in the project plan, we would have avoided major headaches and guest experience failures.”
Case Study #2: The best-laid plans.
There is an abundance of disruptive technology out there, however, it might not be a “fit” for every organization.
I have said “you were right” when the operator told me, “this is not going to work in my operation.” An example would be “beverage on demand” on the casino floor. There are casinos that do not allow alcohol to be provided as a complimentary “free” benefit to players. Beverage on demand only works if there is an easy way for the cocktail server to present the check and for the player to pay it. Without the ability to easily collect payment along with the bandwidth to support the increase in network traffic, the technology was not the right fit for this operator. Their technology dollars will be much better spent on a solution that enhances the guest experience or reduces labor.
Case Study #3: Do not zero in on the price. The results may surprise you.
Sometimes you have to overlook the price and focus on the results that the solution will produce for the business. Remember the phrase, “Don’t trip over dimes to save nickels!” In many cases, the price is more than justified by the ROI on labor savings or the level of risk it mitigates. In other cases, you should evaluate the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) over a three or five-year period. TCO takes into consideration the cost of the solution over the time period, additional expenses such as software maintenance, hardware (upgrade or replacement) and any other add-on products that may be required to implement the solution. Now, evaluate the TCO versus the ROI. An example: A client needed to purchase two new servers at an “all-in cost” of $125,000 that included three years of maintenance.
Their current maintenance cost for the current server (that was approaching end-of-life) was $38,000 per year. I explained to the CFO that the cost of maintenance alone on the existing server for the three-year period would be $114,000. Also consider that the current server would be obsolete after the next upgrade. For $125,000, they would be able to obtain two brand-new servers and three years of maintenance for an additional $12,500. Once the client understood the total picture, making the investment into the new servers was a “no-brainer.”
Throughout my career, in my varied roles as a consultant, vendor and an operator, I can tell you that the art of giving valuable advice and instruction and receiving and implementing strategies from outside sources is determined by three things. Knowledge, common sense and experience.