It’s a new day dawning when the Vice President of Technology Strategy joins executive level discussions on guest surveys. But that’s exactly what John Bollen found himself doing with his colleagues at MGM Resorts International. And what were they talking about specifically? Wi-Fi.
Bollen was not all that surprised. In designing Las Vegas’ CityCenter in 2007, a collection of hotels and residences, spas, dining, and shopping destinations, cutting-edge technology was a key priority. Accompanying that was the development of a guest technology strategy that addressed different access and security priorities than the heavily regulated, corporate technology strategy.
Fast forward a few years, post iPhone revolution and mobile Internet eruption, and guests are demanding connections for any device at any time as an expected measure of good service. “Guests were rating our properties based on Wi-Fi availability. At our hotel divisional meetings, property executive feedback shared a common theme–guests want good, reliable, fast Wi-Fi,” says Bollen.
He knew instinctively that action was needed across technology investment, strategy, and culture. The issue was how to evolve an IT network and policies that support the needs of corporate users to a business network that can connect a diverse spectrum of users including convention customers, hotel guests, and property visitors.
Technology and Strategy
Bollen wanted a Wi-Fi network with solid radio frequency design and high density. It also required a lot of creativity and ingenuity in cabling and access points to account for obstacles like foliage and mechanical equipment that could cause disturbance.
In Bollen’s view, the Wi-Fi network had to have the same quality, innovation, and elegance of the MGM Resorts property it was serving. He partnered with Cisco on both the design and build to achieve the right capacity to handle concurrent connections, policy, interference, and bandwidth requirements.
Strategically, Bollen had to devise a way to balance the priorities of the business-critical and guest-critical networks. From a corporate perspective, revenue-generating systems including payroll, front desk, data centers, and slot machines must be up, running, and Payment Card Industry-compliant. For guests, the network must be quick, nimble, responsive, and secure, but without the same compliance austerity.
“We have positioned MGM Resorts as a market leader by collaborating with Cisco to build an infrastructure that delivers high density for concurrent connections, enables policy diversity, and offers the bandwidth to support the mobile Internet,” says Bollen. “We have completed the installment of Wi-Fi throughout the public and meeting spaces of Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, and The Mirage. It’s robust wherever our guests go and provides an interconnection between properties as well. Our competitors on The Strip just can’t offer that experience.” Wi-Fi installments for MGM Resorts’ other Las Vegas-based properties will continue into 2013.
The Business Opportunity
MGM Resorts’ new Wi-Fi capabilities are transforming context-aware marketing and the conventions business. IT can generate detailed data for marketing that would usually require significant time and resource investments. It is helping marketing with campaigns as well as contributing to new types of discussions with partners who are looking to target advertising and offers.
“We can contemplate a data-driven strategy now,” says Mike Dominguez, Senior Vice President of Sales, MGM Resorts International. “As we progress down this path and collect more data, we’re going to be able to assess our guest mix, understand customer behavior more accurately, and determine how that affects bandwidth demands. In addition, we’ve gained the capability to communicate with customers that have been on the Wi-Fi network and target offers based on what we know about their experiences at our property.”
Dominguez also sees incredible potential in the conventions business. Lack of bandwidth is a major issue in the meetings industry. Most hotels do not have the capital or are not committed to reinvesting to be ready for a world with multiple devices per attendee. With MGM Resorts’ new Wi-Fi capabilities, Dominguez is confident that he can elevate the conversation in terms of bandwidth and meetings.
In Dominguez’s view, ingraining the shift from meeting mechanics to meeting architecture will revolutionize the industry. “In the world of multiple devices, the future of meeting architecture is attendee-generated content,” says Dominguez. “The natural evolution is two-way interaction, communication, and interactivity–not talking at, but talking with. Bandwidth and power are the foundation of that. For MGM Resorts International to be ahead of the curve on Wi-Fi means that we can differentiate our meeting experiences with connectivity and value-added solutions that can alter the meeting landscape permanently.”