"The capital request proposal required a lot of wordsmithing, justifications, and assurances," he says. But the Capital Commission recently approved the project, which Zayas expects to complete by February 2001.
On the heels of this success, Zayas is contemplating his next budget battle. "Once the new infrastructure is in place, we need to take a hard look at voice over IP," says Zayas, who admits somewhat sheepishly that his own phone consists of one line and no speaker. "This will be a tough sell," he predicts. "The state gets a very good rate with the phone company, but we also have PBX systems that are costly, not to mention that not everyone can use them. How much could we save by getting rid of the PBX systems?" Before leveraging his newfound wordsmithing skills, Zayas says he will need to do the government equivalent of an ROI analysis, determining to his own satisfaction that the plan warrants another trip to the state house.
|Executive Director of Information Technology, Tropicana Casino & Resort, Atlantic City, N.J.|
|Major accomplishment: Moving to off-the-shelf casino management software|
|Goal 2001: Gain competitive edge through customer marketing applications|
Like Zayas, Don Kneisel is no stranger to budget battles. His casino, a division of Phoenix-based Aztar Corp., is not the largest in Atlantic City, but it does boast 4,000 slot machines and 5,000 employees. It is the largest hotel in New Jersey with more than 1,600 rooms. "Do executives want to spend $100,000 on a new slot machine or on a server consolidation project?" he asks with a grin, knowing the answer.
Kneisel's IT department must run not only the payroll, accounting, and business continuity functions typical of nongaming companies, but also the casino management and guest registry systems that are critical to maintaining competitiveness. "The industry is heavily regulated, and all the casinos are selling the same product using the same software and vendors," he says, pointing out that "there's only one way to play blackjack in Atlantic City." As a result, differentiation must be achieved through customer loyalty initiatives, where he now spends the majority of his time.
The luxury of devoting himself almost full-time to marketing applications is a relatively recent phenomenon, however. "When we first started out, there wasn't much choice in vendors, and we were building most of our casino management applications in-house," says Kneisel, who has been with his company for 16 years. "My competitors were taking advantage of faster, newer technology more quickly than I could develop [applications]." Kneisel reasoned that if he converted to "vanilla" off-the-shelf casino management software, he would gain not only features and functionality, but also automatic regulatory compliance, which is embedded in these systems.
The problem was that 99% of the new applications were developed