John Ormond

Chumash Casino Resort
Director of Technology Services


Can you give us a look at your Technology Services department structure and areas of oversight?
The Technology Services department at the Chumash Casino Resort currently oversees an IT portfolio encompassing; a 2000-slot casino, bingo entertainment venue, a 100+-room casino hotel onsite, two offsite hotels, eight restaurants, multiple gas stations, our administrative building and employee resource center. Our Technology Services team is divided into two groups: Infrastructure/Operations- focusing on the daily operations and maintenance service levels and a Solutions Team- dedicated to capitalizing on business opportunities with best use of technology and new innovative solutions. In 2002 when I started we had four people in our department, four servers and one workstation we would all fight over using. We now have a technology staff of 31 and over 200 servers, 90% which are virtualized. We’ve seen steady growth over the years and have our sights set on continuing along that path. Our five-year outlook is constantly being reworked as we identify new business opportunities.
It seems like your entire organization has a very team-oriented approach, what can you tell us about this?
We do have a very team-oriented approach. It really goes “top down” and “bottom up”. In 2013, we recognized the need in our department to develop new strategy and improved documentation. We did a GAP analysis and formed a transition plan to put into motion. Previously we were very operational and didn’t have a formal process for building custom solutions. Everything was in individual silos and when we moved to a more team-centric approach it allowed better focus for development vs daily. Within IT we are following ITIL processes and have set teams focused on different areas of the business. We also have a management team within IT. Our structure also has a technology steering committee that is set in place to manage the IT portfolio. It’s made up of key personnel from Technology Services and the executive team. The executive leadership team, which I joined roughly four years ago, is made up of 10 executive directors from the casino resort. Being a part of this group empowers IT to be part of business decisions and is extremely helpful for IT in aligning with the business. Beyond this level there is a business committee that is an elected body defining governance and serving as the connection of the business to the tribal council. It has taken us several years to get to this structure but we feel fortunate to have all these layers driving the successful use of technology in our enterprise.
What are some of the key projects your team has been involved with recently or has upcoming?
We have had several upgrades to key administrative systems like; accounting, payroll and HR. Specific to gaming solutions, we have had a major push to use technology to advance our marketing plan. These efforts center around evaluating and identifying how to use mobile, social and interactive gaming to our advantage. We now have full wireless coverage on the gaming floor, have virtualized 90% of our servers and are on the cusp of some major advancements in our network with our new data center project. We are always actively seeking resources internally and externally to use technology to drive innovation.
Do you have any expansion projects you are working on that you can tell us about?
We are in the initial stages of a major expansion. Included will be a new data-center build, tripling the number of rooms in inventory onsite, new food and beverage outlets and other amenities. We have been in the planning stages of for a while will kick into high-gear with ground-breaking set for Q4 of 2014.

What would offer up as advice to your peers in the industry?

I would say identify the needs of the business, make sure that those needs align to business strategy and put processes in place to make the necessary adjustments to plan in the case that they don’t. Most if not all business activities are dependent on technology giving us a near complete view of operations. We strive to engage the business at multiple levels to ensure alignment from leadership to the front line. What technology can enable the business to do is unlimited, but everything has a cost Never forget that you can always do your job better; the point of innovation is not just to show it but to offer value to the business.