2015 TribalNet Industry Award Recipients

Mark Treat, Director of IT accepted the award on behalf of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC)

What are your secrets to success in getting the most out of the resources and tools you have?

First, it starts with what we work on. We work with the business leaders to ensure that we are working on the right projects that align with the strategic priorities of the enterprises. We do this through an IT portfolio management process that prioritizes the list of active and requested projects and allows us to communicate that to the business. This ensures alignment. It also ensures that we not only focus on the right projects, but communicates what we explicitly are not going to work on. Second, is how we do our work. We have implemented a rigorous project management process to ensure the project outcomes that benefit the business are met and done so in a timely and cost-effective manner. Third, and most important, is the IT team who does the actual work. We ensure the IT staff have the appropriate level of leadership guidance and mentoring, training, and tools to increase the likelihood of successful project delivery.

How does the diversity of systems and pace of the industry impact your existing and long-term vision for your department?

One of the primary aspects of the vision for our department is to not only continue to meet the on-going operational the needs of the businesses we support in the timeframe they demand, but also to enable them to grow and transform. As we strive to meet the speed-to-market needs of the varied businesses throughout the enterprise, we’ve structured our department so that certain resources are focused primarily on the government entities and others are focused on the gaming/hospitality entities. This improves the ability for these resources to align with and more fully understand the respective business lines and technology needs. We also have organized other resources whose skills apply universally to be leveraged across the entire enterprise. To ensure that the speed of IT matches the pace required by the business, we’ve develop standard, repeatable processes which improve our time of delivery. This includes mature project management tools and processes, standardized technology platforms, streamlined vendor/solution evaluation processes, and others. Even contract reviews have become standardized with certain required language incorporated depending on the type of application configuration. We continually look for internal process improvements. This initiative is an on-going means of delivering more effectively. In terms of supporting the growth and transformation of the enterprises’ businesses, our vision includes being partners with the key business leaders throughout the enterprise. This helps us identify and deliver solutions that more closely match the businesses’ strategic plans and enables us to do so more efficiently. Finally, the longer-term vision for IT includes doing more in the way of cloud-based solutions to leverage greater economies-of-scale and speed, improved collaboration with our peers in the tribal-IT world to learn from their best practices, and developing closer relationships with local colleges to meet the increasing challenges of recruiting qualified talent.

Chuck Scharnagle, CIO of the Mohegan Tribe accepted their award on behalf of his team

What do you think are the most important things to consider when taking a concept/idea to a reality and executing?

If you are trying something new, something different for either you or the organization, you’ll need the following traits/characteristics. Perseverance because there will be many times when you hit a dead end, financial crisis or times when you question the validity of your project. You need to be able to continue on realizing this is but a bump in a very long road. Keep goals based in reality. As mentioned above, there will be days when you think nothing will work and there will be others where your ego has you believing your idea/ product will be a smash hit. One needs to keep their emotions in check with reality. Very few ideas become instant hits and keep the negative thoughts at bay by listening to your advisors, etc. Finally, enjoy the moment. You’re doing something that most don’t do. You have a new idea and you are pushing it to fruition. Enjoy and learn from the experience.

What does the word innovation mean to you?

We went for this award because we really felt we were creating something entirely new for users. Innovation to me means creating something brand new or even taking an existing idea to another level. Ultimately you are providing a new experience/ service/product for the user in a manner they’ve never seen before.

Ram Patrachari, CIO of Viejas Enterprises accepted the award on behalf of his team

What are your best tools for measuring the success and impact of your departments technology initiatives on the business?

We track both quantitative and qualitative measures using ITSM methodologies and tools. The primary goal of the measures are to gauge how technology initiatives impact business objectives of the enterprise. For qualitative measures, on the operational side, we track internal feedback from our users on the level of service provided. We focus on availability, capacity, incident management and problem management to ensure stated QOS levels are met per our SLA’s. On the project side we measure ROI for each individual project and follow the SCRUM methodology for project execution.

Where do you see technology’s role falling in the casino and hospitality industry 10 years from now?

I feel in 10 years it would be very difficult to discern the difference between business and technology. Here are some of my thoughts; technologies role will increase exponentially in supporting and driving every business process within the enterprise and beyond, extreme data mining and big data analysis will drive every decision in either an automated or manual fashion, smart agents within the enterprise will manage most of the digital interactions within the enterprise and security will continue to be a primary concern. Behavioral and cognitive science theories will form the underpinning of the interactions.