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  • Willy Allison

Surveillance Performance: Is Your Operation on Target?

"If it doesn't matter who wins or loses, then why do they keep score? - Vince Lombardi

I wrote an article for the Catwalk recently about being proactive in surveillance. I mentioned the importance of being able to measure performance. Following on from that I've had a lot of discussions with industry experts on the topic of surveillance performance. In particular the need for setting the goal posts and providing direction in the monitor room. I would like to take it one step further by sharing with you an innovative new performance management system I adapted from a system I developed in the late 90's. I have updated it by adding some new components including specialized training and software and incorporated the advice of some respected surveillance directors in the business who are currently using similar systems in their operations. The results have been great.


At the Surveillance Directors Academy held recently at UNLV's International Gaming Institute, students were asked to complete a team project over the course of the week. They were given the following brief:

Your CEO/Owners/Tribe are looking to cut costs and are considering eliminating the surveillance department. They are looking at two alternative options: 1) Giving CCTV system access to each department manager in the casino or 2) Outsourcing the recording and monitoring to a remote location of experts in Las Vegas. Both options have already been approved by the regulators and will represent significant savings to the casino.

Students were told to prepare a case for their CEO/Owners/Tribe to keep their existing surveillance department.

The assignments sparked some good discussion and debate on the importance of surveillance in casinos. The students gave PowerPoint presentations on the last day of the Academy that put together strong cases for the continued use of internal resources. They did a great job. There were some very strong arguments for keeping existing surveillance departments but also an acknowledgment that the possibility of outsourcing could be an option in the future given that the technology now exists and the economic climate could make the cost savings appealing to the financial decision makers of the organization.

As the moderator of the Academy and one of the panelists that played the part of the CEO/Owners & Tribe in the mock presentations, (I played the Simon Cowell part) I found the content to be very well thought out and the students passionate about the role of surveillance. However, I left feeling that although I (an old surveillance guy) was inspired by the passion and the cases put forward by the students, would a senior casino executive from the 2010 Harvard graduating class drink the same Kool Aid?

What I think most casino executives and owners want are results. Surveillance for a long time has struggled to justify their "net worth". There's no disputing the importance of CCTV as a management & regulatory tool to assist in ensuring operational integrity but what is the value of the "intellectual property" in surveillance? One important statistic missing from the business cases put forward was the availability of data on performance comparisons with the options available. In other words, what have you done for me lately and is it better than what that other guy can do for me? Beyond 2010 I think performance management is the key to increasing our net worth to the organization. I feel we must create an accepted surveillance standard - a performance measuring stick and benchmark across the industry.

The Black Chip System

The Black Chip Performance Management & Training System incorporates 10 key performance objectives, quality training and performance management software. Here's the 2010 Harvard graduate "elevator short version". I have highlighted key words (no more than 140 characters) for those of you who communicate to your boss through Twitter:

The Black Chip will get all our surveillance people on the same page. We give them 10 key performance objectives (KPO's) that focus on achieving results and contributing to the organizations efforts of operational integrity, compliance and revenue protection. The Black Chip training courses are designed and aligned to achieve the KPO's. Individuals are recognized for their achievements using a point rating system. Managers use simple-touse software to identify and measure our best performers (as well as our non-performers), the team leaders and the overall department performance from year to year. In one sentence: The Black Chip is all about getting results and continuous improvement.

Black Chip System

The foundation of the Black Chip system is based on the achievement of 10 key performance objectives. The process of determining what the 10 objectives should be was challenging because there are currently no standards or benchmarks in casino surveillance. To come up with a performance measurement standard that could be applied across different jurisdictions would kind of like be trying to introduce the same currency to every country in the world. Maybe a better analogy would be introducing the metric system. Change and compliance to other people's ideas can be met with resistance. Regardless, I think most people would agree it would be a lot easier if the industry (and world) were on the same page.

In developing the KPO's, I sought the advice of experienced and knowledgeable surveillance professionals. We talked about getting results, motivating staff, the perception of surveillance, internal marketing, incentive programs, career paths, recognizing top performers and keeping good people. One interesting point was that no one seemed to agree on what surveillance performance means. This is nobody's fault. The reality is surveillance does what their owners and regulators want them to do. Put 10 owners and 10 different regulatory bodies in the same room and you would have 40 different opinions on the same thing - 20 individual opinions and 20 politically correct ones.

So I came up with the 10 key things that I think drives the success of a surveillance operation - the Black Chip system. I'm not saying it should be the standard of every director, I'm just saying it's my standard. I'm not trying to downgrade what you currently do. I'm just suggesting the Black Chip system can help set the goal posts for your staff through prioritizing and recognizing achievement in targeted surveillance, detection, investigation, resolution, auditing and analysis.

The 10 Black Chip Key Performance Objectives

The Black Chip system defines 10 key performance objectives that drive the success of a surveillance operation. Surveillance Operators are rated each month based on the achievement of the objectives using the Black Chip scoring (BCS) system. The following list outlines the 10 key performance objectives:

Black Chip KPI's

Black Chip Scoring

Training & Managing the System

In any performance management system the key is to provide the tools needed for achieving success. It starts with consistent and continuous training. Training and individual development plans should be aligned with your department's objectives. The Black Chip system not only measures individual performance but assists in measuring effectiveness in training courses completed. Employees get more out of training if they feel it is relevant and can help them be successful at their job. Training courses are a means to the end.

Main Thing

A by-product of utilizing the Black Chip system to improve performance is the data and statistics obtained from the database. From a department perspective being able to conduct trend analysis to address weaknesses is a great benefit as is sharing positive statistics with senior management and colleagues on individual and department achievements. Other advantages of the Black Chip system include:

- Establishing a high standard of specialized training

- Using data for promotion criteria & succession planning

- Developing a performance-based salary structure

- A link to incentive programs

- Building a career path & employee loyalty

- Increase competitive edge in recruitment

- Motivate staff and establish a learning culture

Final Note

A surveillance supervisor's responsibilities should include the coaching, training and development of their team members. This includes being held accountable for their teams performance and results. The Black Chip system is designed to assist surveillance managers and supervisors run performance-based operations as well as assess their own performance as a leader.


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