Evolution of Guest Interaction

By Michael S. Israel, SVP & CIO, Six Flags

Michael S. Israel, SVP & CIO, Six Flags

Ensuring Network Security-Highest Priority

As a theme park operator with over 3,200 point of sale systems, which are often exposed to the elements and spread across 18 sites, managing the daily operations of an environment this size takes a massive amount of coordination. When you add security protocols, and compliance monitoring into the mix, our responsibilities multiply. Ensuring that our network and data systems are secure is our highest priority at all times. Our marketing department does a great job of keeping us on our toes. Our guest interaction is evolving from the more traditional mass marketing scenarios to one in which we are marketing directly to those guests with a focus on proximity monitoring. These location based solutions and social media connections allow us to engage with our guests based on their physical location in any of our sites.

System Security- A Challenge

The most important topic on the mind of any CIO this year remains system security. While we remain vigilant on the security side of the business, we
are always evaluating new tools and resources to assist in this area. As a multinational operator we are exposed to credit processing solutions in numerous countries. The U.S. companies can benefit and learn from solutions already in place in Europe and other parts of the world. With the rapid development of mobile based payment services, and the increasing shift in users relying on mobile device as identity, we are hopeful that secure payment could arise.

The Trending BLE and Wi-Fi Proximity

As with many industries, mobile technology along with location services, have impacted the entertainment and theme park business providing us new
layers from which to interact with our guests. Specifically technologies such as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Wi-Fi proximity can provide our guests’ specific offers, promotions and contextual value while delivering us a deeper understanding of their experience. Creating scenarios in which our guests can order food, purchase tickets, or virtually wait on line with their mobile device also enhances our ability to offer a best in class guest  experience.

"Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Wi-Fi proximity can provide our guests’ specific offers, promotions and contextual value while delivering us a deeper understanding of their experience"

My Role as a CIO

The role of a CIO has changed considerably in the past few years at Six Flags, moving from traditional IT infrastructure to a business strategist. The CIO’s role is about balancing business needs against the ever-increasing opportunities and risks while delivering consistently solid and innovative solutions. The CIO role today not only has to understand technology but how it can increase the company’s performance and share holder value, while still reducing costs and improving the guest experience.

Lessons Learned as a CIO

One of the critical lessons a CIO can use is the need to be “in-touch” with all key stakeholders of an organization. It has become increasingly important to understand the needs of your stakeholders by obtaining a front line appreciation of their issues and challenges. Knowing how to technically solve them is the easy part, knowing when and where is the CIO’s real challenge.