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Business intelligence in the Gaming Industry

Business intelligence (BI) is ubiquitous; it is disseminated throughout the world and is applied in almost every department of Information technology and business. The advent of BI has helped organizations across the world to surpass most of the constraints, pressures and challenges they had been facing for years. There are several methodologies and principles in place that are used to make sense of massive amounts of raw data in organizations and convert them to useful information. There are numerous business intelligence techniques adopted by organizations to bring about meaningful purpose of their raw data/information. Software applications and BI tools are being used by business organizations to tailor their needs or requirements. Some of the most common methods or functionalities of BI technologies are data warehousing, data mining, online analytical processing, reporting and analytics (Mulcahy, n.d.). During the early days, business applications were independent to each other and it was difficult to access them from a common and simple platform. Many departments relied on automation of data but they were not integrated as a single unit. As a consequence, data or information started to pile up from different databases and organizations were using different systems to back up their functions (GravicShadowbase, 2013). The value of this information mountain was soon recognized by business organisations and they endeavoured to develop a new unified system that can organize, interpret and transform the information; that is how the concept of data warehousing came into existence as a part of business intelligence. Organizations have been using one or more BI tools to suit their needs ever since. The gaming industry (Casinos and Bookmakers) around the globe have been utilizing the potential of BI tools to sustain their business as well as to enhance their profitability. In this essay some of the BI tools used in the gaming industry such as Informationbuilders (WebFOCUS), Teradata, SAS (Statistical Analysis System), and Microstrategy will be discussed, analysed and reviewed.

The gaming industry unlike other industries has a potential to gather enormous amount of information about their consumers, devices and actions. The conventional management methods helped gaming industries like casinos to collect massive amounts of their operational data from all its departments. As soon as they recognized the analytical value of this information, there emerged a need for a competent decision support system (DSS) that can unleash the potential of the captured information which can then be used to gain advantage over their competitors in the industry. At that point in time, some companies came up with BI systems that can utilize the gathered information to analyse certain trends regarding customer activities, revenue from different departments, reinvestment and performance (Chandavaram, 2013). As DSS evolved into a better Business intelligence system, it helped the Casino organizations to improve their productivity on a large scale. Organizations use different types of BI tools to meet their requirements; some of the main BI solutions will be discussed further in the essay.

Informationbuilders is a software company based in New York City, USA. One of their major BI tools is WebFOCUS which has a broad platform and helps organizations to predict and analyse information. WebFOCUS incorporated four vital components for companies to make effective decisions such as Business intelligence, advanced analytics, performance management and data integrity (White, 2010). Consumers can modify or alter the BI portal or Dashboard according to their need and there are many other options in the end-user application as well. The gaming industry is proliferating rapidly across the world especially in western countries.

Casinos are striving hard to attract new customers and also to retain their potential clients due to competitions within the industry. In order to accomplish this, casinos need to have a thorough understanding of the requirements of their patrons. Informationbuilders has a comprehensive data management and analytics technology that allows them to enhance patron value. The customers are provided with a single golden record by master data management solution which helps casinos to recognize their top rated clients (Sallam, 2011, p.2). Once the high value customers are identified, they are offered with loads of loyalty programs and also the company will closely monitor their activities. Another aspect of WebFOCUS is to forecast the customer behaviour, all the different attributes of the patrons such as demography, education, preferences, marital status etc. will be put into perspective. In this way, Casinos can identify customers with similar behavioural pattern and bestow them with the right offers and services. For instance, suppose that majority of American players aged 22-35 are found to be playing poker as their favourite game, then it is highly likely that a person from similar background would prefer the same and the Casinos can offer them with the preferences of the particular group. Information regarding the revenue of an organization is often aggregated in different systems and locations. With the help of a central BI system, organizations can access and analyse the financial information from a common platform so that the sales and activities of different groups can be tracked and categorized. It can then be prioritized and different estimating methods are put in place to maximize profitability (Sallam, 2011, p.3). For example, working out pricing strategies compared to competitors and clearance of non-moving products by discounting. Another challenge of the gaming industry is to precisely determine the success of their gaming process. WebFOCUS can accurately assess the wins and losses from all the tables and slots. By doing this, Casinos can identify different trends and also helps them to determine the money making areas (Sallam, 2011, p.3). Most of the Casinos across the world are vulnerable to a lot of fraudulent activities and risks. The predictive analytics offered by Informationbuilders create patterns and identifies certain trends with which the Casinos can determine the frauds and the likelihood of them cheating the company. These patterns are also recorded in order to mitigate these risks in the future. In addition to that, it is also capable of producing regulatory reports to abide by the rules and regulations of the particular country. The importance of this report is to ensure that well known swindlers are not using

Casinos for money laundering purposes. Informationbuilders is in business partnership with IBM over the past few decades. Although, WebFOCUS is integrated with different systems, the CEO of Informationbuilders Gerald Cohen claims that WebFOCUS delivers the best with IBM’s Power7 server and AIX operating system

(IBM, 2012, p.2).

Power7 server and AIX operating system (IBM, 2012, p.2). Figure 1.0: Informationbuilders WebFOCUS user interface

Figure 1.0: Informationbuilders WebFOCUS user interface (Sallam, 2011).

Business intelligent tools like Teradata business solutions (TBS) approach is slightly different compared to other technologies. Gaming industries are constantly working on providing different customer experiences compared to its competitors. TBS aims to help these organizations by addressing these issues particularly to attract more new customers rather than retaining their patrons (Churak, 2012). Senior level management in these organizations realized that the ideal way to accomplish this task is by having a corporate integration of all its data so that everyone can access it. During the process of analysing the enterprise data, TBS simultaneously focuses on the overhead costs as well as the productivity of the organization. TBS offers a brilliant patron management system to analyse different patron groups to create unparalleled opportunities. Although most of the BI tools have similar patron management schemes, Teradata’s take on it is somewhat different from its competitors. They have a proficient system in place to analyse patron value which identifies contemporary and life-time value of their customers. Teradata solutions accomplish this by integrating analytical intelligence and management tools to automate marketing strategies to provide appropriate content to the operational

systems (Churak, 2012). The output of this automated marketing system enables them to identify how and when the customers are most likely to accept services and

offers provided by the organization. In addition to that, Teradata offers a transparent gaming decisions reporting tool that compiles all the data from different operational systems in an organization and provides timely updated information to the end users.

It must be one of the most important aspects of a gaming organization so as to gain

new customers because some companies are biased in providing comprehensive view of the information in terms of customer value. Teradata also has a strong web analytics tool in place to analyse patron booking behaviour and other associated activities; thereby utilizing the incredible potential of e-channels to increase profitability (Churak, 2012). Teradata’s active data warehouse technology offers a centralized and integrated decision support system that acts as a backbone for all the decision making aspects of an organization. Teradata Corporation is also a key player in the success of many gaming organizations like America’s Harrah’s Entertainment group. Teradata’s active data warehouse is also supported by another

independent BI organization called Microstrategy. Teradata and Microstrategy formed

a coalition in terms of technology to benefit both the organizations. Microstrategy

aids in enhancing certain areas of Teradata to maximize proficiency of the BI tool such as SQL syntax, optimizer, advanced indexing techniques, and OLAP systems (Microstrategy Incorporated, 2009). Even though they are collaborated in certain respects, Microstrategy solutions also provide business intelligence in the gaming industry.

Microstrategy is a company based in the United States of America and founded in 1989; they also have branches in different parts of the world (Microstrategy, 2013). Microstrategy provides Business intelligence to organizations to aid them in effective decision making. Microstrategy has so many technology and integration partners worldwide. They were the first organization to introduce the web-based interface for

their BI tools. Microstrategy stands out from its competitors in terms of their architecture. They offer a unified architecture that integrates five different aspects of Business Intelligence. The most common aspect of BI that is disseminated throughout the gaming industry is Enterprise reporting because it serves the requirements of consumers from the very basic level. Another facet of Microstrategy

is Cube analysis (MOLAP) which is applicable to beginners who require a detailed

data analysis based on default multidimensional datasets. Ad Hoc Query (ROLAP) And Analysis helps users to create ad hoc queries to fit their requirements. It also enables them to browse through the complete data warehouse and pick out any particular information to perform analysis. A predictive analysis or forecasting is done using data mining algorithms which aid to identify patterns in the data; thereby creating a relationship between various pieces of information. They also offer a centralized report distribution service or self-subscription that delivers reports to consumers. The delivered data is customized based on the requirements of the receiver and also formatted automatically to fit different types of output devices. The different styles of BI can be customized based on user specifications but at least one of the above mentioned aspects of BI will always be there in the Microstrategy software architecture (Wixom, 2004, p.236). The diagram illustrated below shows the different styles of BI used in the Microstrategy architecture.

Figure 2.0: Microstrategy integrated BI architecture (Wixom, 2004, p.236). As Business intelligence is the key

Figure 2.0: Microstrategy integrated BI architecture (Wixom, 2004, p.236).

As Business intelligence is the key component for all the successful gaming corporations, Microstrategy offers services that cover almost all the facets of the gaming industry. Even if a company ventures to start a business from scratch in the field of gaming and hospitality, Microstrategy has an efficient management system in place to cover all the aspects necessary to survive and be successful in the industry. For instance, they offer a competent BI tool to analyse market penetration, game analysis, corporate performance, revenue management and many other factors that determine the success of a business. Microstrategy also has a solutions map for gaming to identify the main areas to be discussed, to create an awareness within the organization about the Enterprise corporate strategy and to identify the areas that require improvement. It also finds out the gaps in the main architecture and highlights certain applications that require extension. The overall purpose of the solutions mapping is to provide an insight to what needs to be done or what could be done for the betterment of the organization (Kammeyer, 2010). The diagram shown below gives an idea of the different aspects of solutions map for gaming.

Figure 2.1: Microstrategy Solutions map for gaming (Kammeyer, 2010). Microstrategy helps companies to optimize their

Figure 2.1: Microstrategy Solutions map for gaming (Kammeyer, 2010).

Microstrategy helps companies to optimize their key performance indicators with respect to gaming and hospitality. The different factors involved in game performance, marketing, hotels, corporate and property performance are analysed to enhance the standards and profitability. Microstrategy’s value proposition claims that it helps to grow gross gaming revenue, profitability, operating efficiency and safety

(Kammeyer, 2010). Figure 2.2: Microstrategy: Different department analysis

operating efficiency and safety (Kammeyer, 2010). Figure 2.2: Microstrategy: Different department analysis 6

Another major stalwart in the field of BI is SAS (Statistical analysis system); they offer BI services in both gaming and hospitality industries. SAS has a well-organized customer relationship management (CRM) structure compared to other BI software and hence it is used in 70,000 sites and 139 countries across the world (Sas.com, 2013). Qualex is one of the major and effective consulting services for SAS software and tools. SAS and Qualex combines to produce a framework that is compatible with almost all the platforms and also offers a compact system for the guest and property information. It is also capable of performing a comprehensive analytical reporting (Qualex consulting services, 2005). SAS solutions and its extensive range of operations are illustrated in the diagram below.

range of operations are illustrated in the diagram below. Figure 3.0: (Qualex consulting services, 2005, p.3).

Figure 3.0: (Qualex consulting services, 2005, p.3).

SAS provides the right BI tools for property and guest intelligence and Qualex consulting services implements it in the gaming industry. Although it has a similar data warehousing theme when compared to other BI tools, the operational procedure is more organized and effective. They integrate all the guest related data into a single repository and analyse it. SAS also has a system in place to ensure the quality of the information stored and draws out the right data to make it more reliable. The processed data is then used to incite effective reporting in a web-based user interface. The SAS enterprise BI server provides an excellent query, analysis and reporting system (Qualex consulting services, 2005, p.5). It is designed in such a way that users of all levels and skills are able to use and access information. Querying has been made easier as it can be done using Microsoft Office environments. It also helps to overcome the size related constraints in Microsoft Excel. In addition to that, SAS integrates OLAP (online analytical processing) system to increase the efficiency of reporting. The SAS enterprise BI server offers a quick and easy access of

multidimensional database that contains compiled information. Users can also avail a web-based interface to look at huge volumes of data from different perspectives and in detail. Another advantage of SAS is that the enterprise data from different departments of an organization can be easily accessed by business users from familiar Microsoft Office based platforms (Qualex consulting services, 2005, p.6). SAS analytic algorithms are also known for their high level of precision and efficiency in the gaming industry. Furthermore, like any other BI system, they also provide BI tools for media optimization, market automation, web-traffic analysis etc.

optimization, market automation, web-traffic analysis etc. Figure 3.1: SAS Visual Analytics (Casino floor performance)

Figure 3.1: SAS Visual Analytics (Casino floor performance) (Sas.com, 2013).

As mentioned earlier, some of the BI tools used in the gaming industry only work well with certain OS’s and servers. SAS system is compatible with many of the familiar vendors in the IT industry. The host platform or the server for SAS BI analytical software is compatible with HP Itanium, IBM AIX OS and Power architecture 7.1, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.1/Oracle Linux 6.1 (64-bit), Solaris version 10 and Microsoft Windows (64-bit) server 2008/7/8 and the client tier works on both Microsoft Windows 7 and 8: 32-bit and 64-bit. For desktop/PC users they have also added a user-friendly interface which can also be used with the server versions if required. However, client tier is only supported on the Professional, Ultimate or Enterprise versions of Microsoft Windows 7/8 (Sas.com, 2013).

Ultimately, it is clearly seen that Microstrategy and SAS solutions excels as Business Intelligence vendors in the field of gaming and hospitality compared to other BI tools in the industry. Most of the top companies in the world opt for SAS and an integrated technology from Microstrategy and Teradata. To bring about the full potential to become successful in the gaming industry, top casinos in the world utilize the analytical capability of Microstrategy and the active data warehousing technology of Teradata. Although Microstrategy has an overall potential to become the leading BI vendor in the industry, SAS has a well-organized customer relationship management method that attracts many gaming industry giants around the globe. As mentioned earlier in the essay, the integrated and unified architecture, compatibility between different platforms are the key success factors of Microstrategy. SAS and Microstrategy has many advantages over WebFOCUS as it is totally dependent on IT personnel and have very less self-service options. Another problem with WebFOCUS is that it requires different user interfaces for different BI tools, so the likelihood of inconsistency in reporting is very high. According to a paper written about Microstrategy and Information builders WebFOCUS, it is mentioned that the OLAP technology of WebFOCUS has issues utilizing database to the full extent and is forced to perform operations in the middle-tier server or the application server. To conclude, the key aspect that determines the success of a gaming organization is to have an efficient BI tool firmly in place which has characteristics such as interoperability, dynamistic, compatibility with different platforms, user-friendliness, quick analytical and reporting ability, data mining technology for efficient predictive analysis and reliability in terms of operational efficiency.

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