Andrew Pearson, Founder and MD, Intelligencia Limited
The great Chinese military tactician Sun Tzu once said, ‘Victory comes from finding opportunities in problems.’ COVID-19 has certainly created a whole host of problems for the world, gaming companies included, but perhaps it’s providing some unexpected opportunities as well. The virus struck so quickly that it was a kind of forced force majeure on all humanity. Many businesses had no option but to shut their doors and make drastic cost-cutting measures to wait out the virus and, hopefully, survive. It’s a highly unappealing option for companies that manage billion-dollar integrated resorts.
However, one of the great advantages of this forced downtime is the ability to get one’s data house in order. It’s an opportunity that almost never comes along. Sun Tzu didn’t say the size of the opportunity correlates with the size of the problem, but there might be some association between the two when it comes to COVID-19. A lot of companies are currently fighting for their lives. Some won’t survive. Others will adjust, tack into the troubling winds, and come out stronger than ever before. These companies might even be able to pick up some customers from their bankrupt competitors along the way and strengthen their balance sheets.
This pandemic has given gaming companies the ability to do a ‘before’ snapshot of their business, something that was impossible prior to it. Data collected during these times could be instrumental when businesses return to normal. ‘Junk in, junk out’ is the standard line used to describe the importance of having cleansed data feeding into a company’s analytical models. When it’s ‘nothing in’, a business has a truly wonderful opportunity to ensure their data processes are crunching at least their previous numbers properly. We’re currently working with companies who are doing just that, and they should come out of COVID-19 as a much stronger data-driven entity that will be using this data as a weapon against their competition.
In its Gartner Identifies the Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2020, the global research and advisory powerhouse believes Hyperautomation, Multiexperience, Democratisation of Expertise, The Empowered Edge, the Distributed Cloud, Autonomous Things, and AI Security are some of the most important tech trends CTO’s will be facing this year. These are important trends and they all have one thing in common – data.
Underpinning almost all of that technology is AI, which is being sold as a magical elixir for just about every business problem imaginable; want to automate away an expensive labour force – add some Robotic Process Automation (RPA); want to cut down on customer service calls – build a chatbot to handle repetitive and labour intensive client questions; want to increase personalisation – build a deep learning model that captures a holistic view of your customer so that a business can understand the customer so intimately that it will be able to predict upcoming purchases, as well as any potential problems that might arise from those purchases; want to catch credit card fraud in action – build real-time models that spot outliers fast enough to refuse questionable purchases.
Gartner expects four key aspects of the democratisation trend to accelerate, including democratisation of data and analytics (tools targeting data scientists expanding to target the professional developer community), democratisation of development (AI tools to leverage in custom-developed applications), democratisation of design (expanding on the low-code, no-code phenomena with automation of additional application development functions to empower the citizen-developer) and democratisation of knowledge (non-IT professionals gaining access to tools and expert systems that empower them to exploit and apply specialised skills beyond their own expertise and training).
At Intelligencia, we’ve seen these trends play out amongst our software partners. Many of them, like Alteryx, push the ‘citizen data scientist’ concept and produce software that requires little to no coding skills. ‘So much technology, so little talent,’ bemoaned Vernor Vinge in his book Rainbows End and it’s a lament shared by many a gaming CTO I’ve spoken to recently.
It’s a fact that software companies the world over have taken to heart. Any CTO looking to implement new software solutions is almost spoiled for choice at the available software offerings in the market these days. Compared to the products available only a few short years ago, many of today’s software tools have intriguing hybrid capabilities. BI software available from Tableau, Qlik, and TIBCO have added powerful analytical components, as well as added connectors to R and Python. DI tools have acceptable BI dashboard functionality. Open source software can add inexpensive AI, BI, CRM, DI, analytics, marketing and social media components as well. Nothing to lament there.
Once the casino industry reopens its doors and businesses return to a semblance of normalcy, it’s going to be a vastly different gambling world than it was before COVID. ‘Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them,’ is one of Shakespeare’s most famous quotes. COVID-19 has been thrust upon us all and we should see it as a challenge that it is, a Sun Tzu-ian opportunity to find victory in one of the world’s most profound problems. It’s a chance for companies to get to know their company, their customers, their data, and their competitors in ways that were impossible before this devastating pandemic. With the knowledge gained, we need not fear what the future holds. We can embrace the opportunity and perhaps build something great, something that will not just outlast us but thrive once COVID-19 is gone.