Action stations at casino

When Auckland's SkyCity bought the Adelaide casino in June last year, the business needed a complete refit including the introduction of a new IT infrastructure and building refurbishment.

When Auckland's SkyCity bought the Adelaide casino in June last year, the business needed a complete refit including the introduction of a new IT infrastructure and building refurbishment.

The overhaul, dubbed Project Action, was scheduled to be completed in a stress-inducing 12 weeks but nevertheless came in on time and under budget.

Programme manager Jim Hight says four key factors played a part in the project success. They were governance, teamwork and people, the establishment of a project management office and a pragmatic approach to methodology, and sound management of the huge changes taking place, including addressing staff concerns.

SkyCity spent $A13 million on major building improvements, implementing the same business systems as in New Zealand and rebranding and launching the previously government-owned casino as SkyCity Adelaide in April this year.

Of the total cost, $A2.7 million was spent on the new IT infrastructure including 120 PCs and 70 touch screens to replace 20 green screens, a new network backbone, Windows NT and Windows 95, setting up email services and new gaming table and cashiering systems. This infrastructure then had to be linked back to the Auckland-based customer loyalty system (also called Action) via a broadband WAN connection.

Given its huge scope and tight deadlines, much thought was put into how the project should be managed. As part of governance a detailed budget was produced. This detail paid off as it helped ensure budget wasn't exceeded, says Hight. A project execution plan was also produced early on setting out business objectives; the roles and responsibilities of the sponsor (the general manager of operations), steering committee, project manager and project teams; the scope; project deliverables; and any assumptions and estimation of risks.

Hight says when it came to people it became apparent that if the project was to succeed in the time frame, key project team members had to be experienced. It was agreed to use 25 Auckland staff which created a major resourcing issue especially with the Auckland IS department. "We had to be careful not to overexpose the Auckland operation, but to keep the project moving at the same time. Fortunately the general manager of IS [Damian Swaffield] understood this well, and was able to arbitrate when needed."

Hight says there were some huge mobile phone bills because of the need to support the Auckland operation remotely.

The Project Action team took a pragmatic approach to methodology and wasn't too constrained. In fact, Hight describes it more as a framework than a methodology. "We found that the early establishment of a project management office [PMO] helped the organisation better understand what we were trying to do. This has already been launched in Auckland, so there was a PMO pack that was distributed, along with all the templates and framework for running projects."

Managing change well was vital. Initially a lot of use was made of the Adelaide human resources team because it understood the local culture. KPMG was then engaged and interviewed project staff, senior managers and surveyed staff to find out which areas to focus on. "In essence we were changing the complete work environment, the name of the company and how it was presented in the marketplace," says Swaffield. "That's why we made sure we focused very carefully on change management."

Communications were increased and an article on Project Action was written for the weekly staff flyer for the duration of the project.

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