Tag Archives: Collaboration

Take a gamble with change

While we’re in that time of the year when change is at the top of most people’s mind, I’m reminded of a famous quote by George Bernard Shaw, “Progress is impossible without change”.

As I have traveled around the world over the last few years, I have noticed a significant number of surveillance professionals changing their approach to their jobs. They are becoming more aware of the need to grow casino revenues and not only protect them. As a result they are forming closer relationships with their marketing departments and assisting them with their observations and insights. Ultimately, this improves customer satisfaction and increases revenues. Surveillance are the eyes and ears of a casino and can bring a view to marketing that they might be missing. I’ve noticed how this increased collaboration is empowering casinos to engage with their customers more effectively. A true 360 degree view of the customer can be built which enables relevant, targeted marketing which leads to increased customer engagement, brand loyalty and revenue.

Just a few months of immersing yourself in the world of marketing from a surveillance vantage point will be a stimulating experience and will undoubtedly add tremendous value to your casinos marketing efforts. Your personal and department value-add will be impressive and it will definitely be an exciting year as you take a gamble with change.

A note to casino marketers: We will be attending and exhibiting at the Casino Marketing Conference in Las Vegas from the 15th – 17th July, 2014 and our range of casino marketing software will be on show.
A note to surveillance professionals: We will be attending and exhibiting at the World Game Protection Conference in Las Vegas from the 24th – 26th February, 2014 and our range of casino protection software will be on show.

We will also be at the following trade shows:
ICE, London, Feb 4-6, 2014
NIGA, San Diego, May 11-14, 2014
G2E Asia, Macao, May 20-22, 2014
G2E, Las Vegas, Sept 30 – Oct 2, 2014

How to master the “Always On” casino

I received some surprising feedback from a client regarding our latest brochure which caused me to reflect on our roots and do a bit of research. Our client was surprised to read that there was little mention of the collaborative features of CHEETEYE, which he felt was a strong point of the software. Collaboration is part of the DNA of CHEETEYE and collaboration tools we’re available from the first version 7 years ago. As a result we’ve become so familiar with this powerful ability of CHEETEYE and tend to focus on the latest innovative tools that have become available. However, after reading some analyst forecasts, “Customers will begin to understand and clamor for technologies that cause actual social interactions in their organizations”. One of our major releases last year was titled “SurveillanceBook” because of its social/collaborative nature, so I’m hugely excited to know that we will be able to meet the needs of those “clamoring for this technology”.

After doing some research and talking to users of our collaboration tools, I found that the top 2 reasons for the need of collaboration software in the casino industry are:

1. Accountability – Operational hours of casinos are not the same as traditional business. Keeping a handle on compliance becomes difficult when an operation is “always on”. Hence the need for smart software that helps compliance and surveillance collaborate by using work flow processes to hold departments accountable when standard operating procedures (Casino SOP) are broken.
2. Performance management – The workplace is one of the most feedback-deprived places in modern life and casinos need to be especially aware of this. Lack of feedback in casinos results in policies and procedures not being strictly followed, which leaves them unprotected from the damaging effects of negligence and fraud both by external sources and an organization’s own staff. Effective performance management requires collaboration. According to “HRExaminer: Looking Ahead: 2012 Forecasts”, traditional performance management software based on annual and quarterly reviews, “miss the whole rhythm of the business.” They expect to see systems that allow instantaneous evaluation and they expect to see case studies that demonstrate the power of “always on” performance evaluation. Below is a screen shot from CHEETEYE’s “always on” performance management” module.

Make sure you have Casino SOP tools in place to master your “always on” environment so that you don’t feel like the drained energizer bunny at the end of the year. Have a great 2012!

From Surveillance Room to Surveillance Lab

In his book “The Wisdom of Crowds”, James Surowiecki recounts the remarkable collaborative research of scientist around the world to find the cause of SARS. What could have taken months or years, took just a matter of weeks to isolate the virus. “The collaborative nature of the project gave each lab the freedom to focus on what it believed to be the most promising lines of investigation, and to play to its particular analytical strengths, while also allowing the labs to reap the benefits – in real time – of each other’s data and analyses.” Scientists collaborate because of what is often called the “division of cognitive labor.” Collaboration:

  • allows scientists to incorporate many different kinds of knowledge in an active way (rather than simply learning from a book)
  • makes it easier for scientists to work on interdisciplinary problems
  • guarantees a diversity of perspectives
  • produces rich results in the form of unique data

Economist Paula Stephan has argued, “Scientists who collaborate with each other are more productive, often times producing ‘better’ science, than are individual investigators.” And social scientist Ettienne Wenger adds: “Today’s complex problem solving requires multiple perspectives. The days of Leonardo da Vinci are over.” In a 1966 study of 592 scientists’ publications and collaborative activities, D.J. de Solla Price and Donald B. Beaver found that “the most prolific man is also by far the most collaborating, and three of the next four most prolific are also among the next most frequently collaborating.”

However, scientist, Gregor Mendal noticed a flaw in the scientific community. He wrote in a famous essay on scientific norms that “triumphant ideas are the ones that explain the data better than any of the others“. Mendal was attempting to address a major flaw in the scientific community where most scientific work never gets noticed. Study after study has shown that famous scientists find their work cited vastly more often than scientists who are less well known i.e. Its not what you know but who you are.

Steps to move from a surveillance room to a surveillance lab:

  1. Think like a scientist – Data is to a surveillance team as chemicals/raw materials are to a scientist
  2. Work like a scientist – Get tools that help you collect and analyze data
  3. Behave like a scientist – Publish your findings in easy to read and understand ways – you already have the attention, unlike the unknown scientist with a great idea

I hope you have many “Eureka!” moments on your surveillance room to lab journey.

Who’s winning the casino procedures race?

The famous Jonny Walker whiskey brand has a well known slogan – “keep walking”. When the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Vegas was fined in February this year, Gaming Commissioner, Tony Alamo said the property failed its duty because upper management didn’t walk the property. The latest high profile fining has been Harrah’s Atlantic City who was fined $65,000 due to a security lapse. Is it also a walking problem?

Having worked with upper management and operational staff, my experience is that upper management need better management tools to hold staff members accountable. According to Noah Turner in iGaming Business Magazine (Dec 2008), The Bigger They Are, the Harder they Fall, “Compliance should never be overlooked. Failing to keep up can mean failing to make money. Administrative tools help an organization protect itself from the damaging effects of negligence and fraud both by external sources and an organization’s own staff, by ensuring that policies and procedures are strictly followed.” Does the surveillance executive have a tool that helps him/her manage casino procedures that are being violated (see an example of such a tool)? Procedure violations have a life cycle and must be managed by a smart work flow system that keeps track of the incident until everyone involved has been held accountable.  This list of casino procedures that need to be managed smartly is vast and requires smart casino management systems.

Gaming commissioners want upper management to walk their properties but in reality that’s not always possible. What they’re really saying is “create a culture of compliance”. As I mentioned in “creating a culture of compliance”, it starts by making small changes. That’s what the word innovation means – “to renew or change”. Make 2011 a year of innovation and increase your running speed. You’ll have more time for walking and you’ll enjoy it. If things are running well, “keep running”!

Surveillance department lessons you can learn from facebook

If one of the key responsibilities of your surveillance department is to monitor events taking place, then you need to make sure you break the habit of drawing circles around individual events and dismissing them as isolated occurrences. They are steps that lead somewhere because life is connected. Facebook is valued at billions of dollars because founder, Mark Zuckerberg, tapped into the fact that life is connected and we need smart software to help us manage this connectedness. For surveillance departments, an electronic occurrence book is a good starting point to effectively manage the numerous events taking place in a casino. However, many are moving onto facebook type electronic occurrence books that harness the multi-tasking power of smart software and the ability to integrate into other systems. Enter the world of “surveillancebook” and “dataveillance”!

Our recent integration work with IGT and other casino software and hardware providers has been quite alarming. Given enough raw data, today’s algorithms and powerful computers can reveal new insights that would previously have remained hidden. Joe Hellerstein, a computer scientist at the University of California in Berkeley, calls it “the industrial revolution of data”. However, Alex Szalay, an astrophysicist at Johns Hopkins University, notes that the proliferation of data is making it increasingly inaccessible. He also notes that we should not only be concerned about how to make sense of all this data but how we train the next generation.

We’ve spent the first part of this year training many of our users so that they’re prepared for our next version of Cheeteye, codenamed “surveillancebook”. The simple advice from Mr Szalay is helping our users do more with what they already have and it’s been an important reminder to us as software developers – don’t forget the training! As Elizabeth II said, “It’s all to do with the training: you can do a lot if you’re properly trained.” If you’ve ever read a technical book on facebook, you’ll be amazed at what you can do with it.

Surveillance lessons from facebook:

  • smart software can reveal new insights
  • you can do a lot more with what you have if you’re properly trained
  • innovation is extremely valuable

Lessons we’re learning from Nokia

In my previous blog I referred to the innovation problems facing Nokia. The problems are around the fact that they do not have a competing smartphone like the iPhone, which according to the Economist is where the profits are: “Nokia ships a third of all handsets, but Apple astonishingly pulls in more than half of the profits, despite having a market share of barely 4%.”… “Nokia has been a highly efficient manufacturing and logistics machine capable of churning out a dozen handsets a second and selling them all over the world. Planning was long-term and new devices were developed by separate teams, sometimes competing with each other – the opposite of what is needed in software, where there is a premium on collaborating and doing things quickly” (“Nokia at the Crossroads” – Economist Feb 12)

Nokia are now looking at partnering with software giant Mircosoft so we should see a competing smartphone released from their stable soon.

We’re learning:

  • to use the advantage we have as casino surveillance software developers i.e. collaborate and do things quickly
  • to work closely with gaming manufacturers e.g. we recently completed an integration project with IGT that pulls relevant information into our Cheeteye dataveillance solution. This has empowered our users to collaborate and make quick decisions, a necessary requirement in the world of casino surveillance
  • we are an important link between the world of casino surveillance software and gaming manufacturers, just like Microsoft will be to Nokia

Recession highlights casino surveillance

I read a response to the recent layoffs of 115 Atlantic City casino inspectors and had to chuckle: “Holy crap. There was someone paying to have a casino inspector in each casino 24-7 just for the possibility that there might be a gaming complaint? WTF? That might have been necessary once upon a time but now there are so many god damn cameras in a casino they have video evidence of you passing gas much less anything else. If there’s a problem, it’s almost certainly been caught on video and can be reviewed at any time. There’s no reason to pay someone who’s job is basically to sit on their thumb. I can see paying for 1 guy to be on call for all the casinos but 1 for each is just a stupid waste of time and money.”

There are many more casino functions that can be fulfilled by casino surveillance, however, in many casinos it has taken the recession to highlight that fact. Redirect some of the savings to surveillance and empower them.

Creating a culture of casino compliance

Social scientist Randy Garner wondered whether sticky notes made by 3M Corp, might have the power to enhance compliance with a written request made to another person. In an intriguing study, he sent out surveys to people with a request to complete them. The survey was accompanied by either

  • a handwritten sticky note requesting completion of the survey, which was attached to a cover letter;
  • a similar handwritten message on the cover letter; or
  • the cover letter and survey alone

More than 75 % of the people who received the survey with the sticky note request filled it out and returned it, whereas only 48 % of the second group and 36 % of the third group did so.

Garner suggests that people recognize the extra effort and personal touch that a handwritten sticky note requires, and they feel the need to reciprocate this personal touch by agreeing to the request.

“Casino compliance should never be overlooked. Failing to keep up can mean failing to make money. Administrative tools help an organization protect itself from the damaging effects of negligence and fraud both by external sources and an organization’s own staff, by ensuring that policies and procedures are strictly followed.” iGaming Business Magazine (Dec 2008).

Below is an example of a compliance message that was automatically generated by cheeteye because of a casino procedure break.

The image below is how that message will look in our new release that will be available soon i.e. it will give the manager an option to add a personal message. The system currently tracks all compliance messages that get sent and notifies the surveillance department of outstanding replies. We’re hoping that with the personal “sticky note”, compliance awareness is going to be enhanced and surveillance departments will have another tool for creating a culture of casino compliance.

According to Darrin Hoke in his chapter on innovation in “There’s no crying in surveillance”, “There are some analytics and dataveillance concepts floating around out there in our world, but they aren’t where they need to be yet.” According to wikipedia, innovation means to “renew or change”. Rather than wait for something to be where it is, make small changes to processes that are not working and you won’t fall behind when it comes to innovation. That’s what we’re doing with our clients and their surveillance department’s are smiling.

What happens when casino surveillance and security cooperate

I recently read “Adventures In Casino Security”, which is an eye opening and humorous account of work life as a casino security employee. This book confirms one of the biggest problems in casino operations that Alan Zajic addresses in his article, “Security and Surveillance Cooperation”.

After reading about the Bellagio heist incident, the first question that arises was how did surveillance and security cooperate and collaborate before the incident? Last year we did our first installation and training of our Cheeteye security module for a large casino that has been experiencing security problems. The module promotes better collaboration and cooperation between security and surveillance. However, the hardest part of the project was convincing surveillance that this was a good idea and that security need dataveillance systems as well.

Maybe the “cooperation” between Bellagio surveillance and security needs to be investigated and tested as we are finding that when casino surveillance and security cooperate, the following happens in the security department:

  • morale increases
  • innovation is stimulated

From our experience, for the above to happen the following needed to take place:

  • Executive leaders had to communicate a clear expectation that cooperation and collaboration is expected
  • Executives had to model cooperation in their interaction with each other and the rest of the organization
  • Cooperation must be rewarded and recognized
  • Security must be given a budget to implement a collaboration system which communicated support and value by executive leadership

“Everything in the world we want to do or get done, we must do with and through people” – Earl Nightingale

Another Arrow for the Surveillance Quiver

Great surveillance managers have the ability to collaborate with other departments in the casino to provide them with insightful information. As a result, surveillance is seen as a department that is looking out for other departments rather than looking over them. I see them as the Robin Hoods of the casino world. To all the casino Robin Hoods out there, we’ve got another arrow for your surveillance quiver!

Our developers released a beta version of our Dealer Roster & Tracking module last week and I really enjoyed playing around with it. I’m looking so forward to the final release! It’s going to rock the world of tables and give surveillance another arrow in their quiver.

Rock the world of tables by providing them with an administrative tool to manage the complex daily operations of people, shifts and pay.

Add another arrow to the quiver of surveillance by giving them access to information at the click of a button which often takes hours, days or sometimes not even available.