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Patrick Tinklenberg is the Vice President of Information Technology with Sycuan Casino where, for the last 4 years, he has been responsible for technology and strategy for the casino, hotel, and golf resort. Previously to this position, Patrick was the IT Director for the Barona Band of Mission Indians for 7 years where he ran the IT operations at all tribal government service facilities, government-supported enterprises, and the Barona Gaming Commission. A veteran of the IT industry for over 20 years, he has worked with companies in Transportation, Medicine, Real Estate, Government, Manufacturing, and Retail to align business objectives with technology.
Since joining the Tribal IT industry in 2005 he has facilitated projects across all areas of government and casino operations. As a gaming operations executive, he has been instrumental in the implementation of innovative loyalty programs, digital content managements systems, CRM, and a number of strategic infrastructure initiatives. Highlights of government initiatives include: reservation-wide wireless broadband, GIS mapping, electronic document management, implementation of citizen service platforms, and unified communications.
What are three top areas of focus for IT executives?
The key areas we are focusing on this year revolve around the business. The first one is security, there have been a number of high profile incidents in financial services, casinos and with Technology providers. With that in mind we have been spending time on security awareness, security training, processes and procedures- all the human elements and IT security. The second one is analytics, business decision making, giving our organization a better ability to make good decisions with good information, faster. The third area of focus is on customer service – going along with analytics, providing technologies that give our hosts and team members, the ability to provide guests the best customer service with what they need at the moment they need it.
What’s your take on Public Cloud?
Historically, Native American Tribes have been very reluctant to going into the cloud because of concerns about sovereignty. From my perspective, I would like to move as many services that would make sense, into the cloud, keeping in mind that a lot of sensitive information needs to be protected and kept in our datacenter. Cloud services provide us with much greater flexibility, security, gives us much faster time to execute, spin up services and extend services into the cloud. I am trying to push toward moving to the cloud as much as possible within some limits. We are not hybrid cloud focused, maybe in the future. Right now we are about 90% in our own data center. We’ve got our CRM in the Cloud. We are deploying SharePoint and taking advantage of Azure where we can.
What superpower do you want most?
I would like super speed. It seems like I’m always running late for something.
How is IT helping to drive revenue throught the company?
There are a couple of ways. A lot of people think of IT as being a cost center. We really tie every initiative we do in IT to some business initiative. Sometimes those initiatives are not specifically a revenue target. We don’t always look at return on investment, sometimes the focus is return on objective. What are we doing to meet a goal or objective? When it comes to truly revenue focused goals we do a lot of projects for marketing and for finance that drive revenue back into the Casino. We will focus on opportunities to increase revenue, and then measure before and after. We also take some of the things we do really well that other casinos don’t do and commercialize them. As an example, we are commercializing a process we developed in house for transferring data in real time to analytics providers. We are the only casino that does that for this provider and now they want to commercialize the product and offer it to other casinos.
How is IT supporting innovation?
Innovation is one of my favorite things to talk about. There can be a process to innovation. You need to schedule time for it and create an environment where people are given the tools and ability to fail. People don’t always feel like they are given permission to fail.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a stunt man, desperately. I would run around the basement of my house, with a helmet and run into padded walls. This may explain a lot about me now, I don’t know.
We are hearing so much about the internet of things – what could that look like for your business?
A lot of different things. We are expanding, so we’re taking the opportunity and looking at smart building technologies. The IOT is a critical component of that. You’re talking about hundreds and hundreds of thousands of end points, from lighting, to fans, to temperature sensors, to valves for sprinkler systems, all can be tied together and integrated to a system that controls everything. We have a little over 2000 slot machines on our floor. Each of them sends us all kinds of data, being able to mine all of that data, being able to grab all of that useful data, and process it with streaming analytics is going to be very important for us.
Have you experienced any hiring challenges?
San Diego is a strong technology marketplace, so when you are competing against other industries like biotech industries it is very hard to convince people that working in a basement in a casino is a really good idea. It’s a 24/7 environment, and IT needs to be here every hour every day all year long even on holidays. It’s a hard sell and you have to find the right person. Typically I will try to explain all the interesting things we do, give them the ability to set their own career path and give them all the resources and tools they need to do that. Pay scale is also sometimes tough in this market. Providing an environment that is challenging and fun and keeps people involved is key. Especially with a younger generation where attention span is down to 8 seconds, keeping them engaged and committed is difficult.
What kind of message is coming down from the CEO/Key Executives about their partnership with IT? What are the key areas of focus?
The great part about my role here is that I get to be a part of the executive team, I report directly to the GM. As part of that group, I can help set the agenda and the messaging is built with IT as a participant. IT gets to develop with the rest of the organization common goals and initiatives.
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