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Mr. Ellis

Human Resources, Recruitment & Training

Turning Big Data into Actionable Data

Why Gaming Properties Should Bet on Analytics

By Bernard Ellis, Vice President of Industry Strategy, Infor Hospitality

In a Gartner survey on CIO technology priorities conducted last year, 55 percent of CIOs cited big data and analytics as the technologies they thought were most likely to be disruptive.(1) This trend has continued into 2014 and many businesses, including gaming companies, are looking to information as the next frontier for competitive differentiation. Data has been critical to building market advantage for a long time, but until recently, most gaming companies focused almost exclusively on player value databases to guide differentiation strategies. Organizations no longer have this luxury. Many markets face new competition as more neighboring jurisdictions allow gambling, and the emerging generation of patrons has shown a strong preference for a more diverse experience that includes much less time on the casino floor and more time in upgraded accommodations, spas, show theaters, full service restaurants, poolside, and other attractions. These aspects of the experience can still drive high margins, some arguably even higher than gaming; but achieving this result requires harnessing data sources from many more departments, several of which often live in disparate systems and do not necessarily capture a guest's every transaction. In attempting to leverage all of this data, today's gaming businesses are in danger of being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information without a defined plan for how and where to utilize it.

The gaming industry is looking for new solutions to simplify information and enable accessibility for everyone, which are the first steps in transitioning from simply data to actionable data. An IBM study found that key executives spend 70 percent of their time finding data and only 30 percent analyzing it.(2) Organizations turned to technology to collect this information in the first place, so they must look to technology again to spend less time searching and more time deriving exploitable insights for their enterprise.

In today's gaming industry, collecting and analyzing real-time data can help properties to improve operations and customer service. However, many companies experience technology-related challenges that prevent them from fully utilizing the data that is aggregated. For example, at most properties the IT department controls business intelligence (BI) and analytics tools out of necessity because the tools are too complex for the average employee to use effectively. This means reporting and analysis is limited and often conducted only at the recommendation of c-level decision-makers. Another frequent roadblock is the lack of integration. With disparate systems, it is difficult to obtain a unified view across the business, meaning that data analysis is often segmented and lacking in visibility. Employees make decisions in isolation without consideration for how the actions of other departments might impact their results, simply because they do not have access to a single version of the truth.

With these challenges in mind, technology vendors are developing new, innovative BI applications designed to help gaming companies maximize the full potential of their data. BI and analytics tools are becoming less complex and increasingly user friendly, with critical information displayed in easily consumable charts, graphs and dashboards. This enables gaming properties to provide more users with access to these applications, eliminating the restriction of reporting and analysis capabilities to just the IT department. Equipping employees across multiple business units with a user-friendly BI application changes its role from a resource for the few to a resource for the masses. Additionally, technology providers who offer a flexible, lightweight middle-ware component give gaming companies the opportunity to integrate existing business applications with a BI platform. Creating a unified solution allows organizations to compile data from multiple sources, enabling more in-depth analysis that is based on property-wide visibility.

When effective analytics initiatives are implemented using a BI application that is both user friendly and integrated across business systems, gaming properties can realize a multitude of benefits. By delivering information to employees when and where it is needed, properties can increase productivity by reducing the amount of time users spend looking for data. This helps to prevent errors and allows employees to spend time on more value-add tasks. Access to critical information also enables faster response times across many departments. Further, analysis of this information can help organizations to pinpoint issues or take a proactive approach by foreseeing challenges before they arise.

Most importantly, BI and analytics initiatives can help casinos to achieve a superior level of customer service by enhancing marketing, sales and support efforts for not just gaming, but for all new revenue opportunities they must now embrace with increased vigor. By collecting and organizing information on each guest, casino properties can create a single record of patrons detailing their history with the organization and frequency of visits, as well as likes and dislikes. Using a predictive analytics tool, properties can then drill down into information to identify behavior patterns, giving marketers the visibility to foresee which promotional offers would be most successful with a particular group of customers. Delivering personalized offers that take individual guest preferences into account are more likely to elicit a positive response, thus increasing revenue and maximizing the potential of each interaction. To ensure these personalized offers are aligned with the goals of the rest of the business, they should be presented during need periods that were scientifically forecast and priced by a revenue management system that is also taking a holistic view of all revenue sources.

This customer data hss not only impact for marketing, but it presents a multitude of possibilities for sales and service business units as well. By "democratizing" data - expanding business information and the tools to analyze it to a much broader audience - gaming organizations can experience significantly greater benefits. If sales representatives can easily run reports and drill down into account details, they can more easily confirm that customers' needs are being met. If support representatives are provided with a single "snapshot" of the guest when interacting face-to-face or over the phone, they are better equipped to assist with requests and create the feeling of a personalized relationship that makes the customer feel recognized and important. Ensuring that all guest-facing employees have 360 degree visibility into the same information ensures that interactions are consistent, which helps to build brand loyalty and allows gaming companies to interact with customers on a more intimate level.

Consider this illustration. A known player who gambles at a particular property at least once a month not only takes advantage of complimentary meals and entertainment that have been issued, but also usually books a spa treatment and buys an article of clothing or jewelry from one of the retail outlets. By collecting this information, the organization can identify her as a high-value repeat customer who should receive loyalty offers beyond just the standard player-related promotions, particularly offers related to the casino's spa and various retail outlets. Tracking this guest's responses to offers, in combination with her demographic attributes, enables the property to build a predictive model that delivers insight into future patron behavior patterns. Additionally, with relevant data displayed in user friendly dashboards, any time this customer interacts with a casino employee they can ask how his meal was the previous weekend or if he will be visiting the blackjack table again this evening. These types of personalized interactions will further strengthen the guest's ties to the casino, ensuring he will continue to return on a regular basis.

Analyzing real-time data can have a significant impact on financial processes for gaming organizations as well. Visibility into guest activities enables more accurate demand planning with forecasts that are based in predictive analytics. This precision allows properties to anticipate fluctuations in guest activities in order to plan staff levels accordingly. With the right number of employees on site, gaming companies can ensure timely guest services and minimize waste by eliminating over-staffing scenarios. Additionally, organizations can improve financial planning and revenue management by aggregating data across multiple locations. This enables the assessment of key trends in profitability, which helps decision-makers to optimize pricing. Price levels can also be adjusted according to revenue-related metrics such as occupancy percentages or income per room. Making changes like lowering table minimums during a slow period or offering room rate discounts to match a competitor allows organizations to maximize revenue opportunities by manipulating the most influential factors on profitability.

Advanced BI tools also impact revenue by helping gaming organizations to increase efficiency in operations. Providing employees with necessary information when and where it is needed, or "democratizing" data as referenced previously, puts decision-making into a larger context. Users are no longer conducting daily activities with a limited view of their department, but instead can see how tasks from other departments might impact their decision, and vice versa. Eliminating this isolation promotes enhanced decision-making across the organization because the influence of possible outcomes on the property as a whole can be considered before a choice is made. The ability to drill down into consolidated data also improves strategic planning by closely linking business plans to strategic objectives. Generating accurate forecasts and analyzing performance allows gaming properties to make adjustments that increase the likelihood of achieving long-term business goals.

When implementing a new BI or analytics platform, gaming companies should ensure that:

  • Protecting the security of customer information is paramount. Leaking personal data is detrimental, and safety should be at the top of the priority list, particularly if the application will be hosted in the cloud.
  • The application is easy-to-use and will reduce the amount of time employees spend searching for information.
  • Integration will be achieved between the application and existing business systems, which is critical to provide a non-disparate view of data.
  • Employees across multiple business units, not just a few decision-makers, are given access to data and the necessary analytics tools to derive actionable insights.
  • The technology is flexible enough to meet changing business needs in the future, which will establish a foundation for long-term reliance on intelligence-driven analytics.

As the big data movement continues to gain momentum, gaming properties should remember that simply collecting large amounts of information does not ensure success. It isn't about getting the data, but rather how you utilize it that can change processes, customer interactions and decision-making for the better. Empowering employees with insights derived from actionable data can facilitate measurable, bottom-line improvements to revenue and guest satisfaction. By taking the initiative to "democratize" data, gaming companies maximize the potential of their big data and put the power of analytics into the hands of everyday users.

References:

(1) Gartner, "Gartner Executive Program Survey of More than 2,000 CIOs Shows Digital Technologies Are Top Priorities in 2013," January 16, 2013.
(2) IBM, The 2010 IBM Global CFO Study
.

Bernard Ellis, Vice President of Industry Strategy for Infor Hospitality is responsible for defining the global go-to-market strategy for the entire Infor solution suite for the hospitality, travel, and leisure industry vertical. In addition to general product positioning, brand messaging, and industry relations, Mr. Ellis directly oversees product management of Infor’s hospitality-specific PMS, RMS, and POS industry applications, and pursues their tight integration with Infor’s world-class solutions.. Mr. Ellis also guides these other solution groups on the “last mile” functionality required to achieve specialized hospitality editions that outperform best-of-breed industry solutions, yet are still cost-effective to implement. With his launch of Infor CloudSuite™ Hospitality in 2014, Mr. Ellis marked over 15 years of evangelizing SaaS solutions. Mr. Ellis can be contacted at 202-232-3839 or bernard.ellis@infor.com Extended Bio...

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