My role as CIO is akin to being the man behind the curtain. My team helps create fun and thrills for our guests through advancements in technology.
Technology is transforming the way guests experience our parks—in a positive way—from the moment they walk through our gates through each aspect of their visit.
But fun doesn’t just happen: Our IT models help us track and estimate attendance every hour of every day. Big data lets us anticipate our guests’ every need.
We gather lots of data—for example, what time guests arrive and depart, which rides and shows they visit, when they eat, what they eat, and at which venues. As guests move through our parks, we then use the historical data, applying it in real time, to make our operations not just more efficient, but also more guest-friendly.
In essence, our goal is to ensure we have the right personnel, food and merchandise, in the right locations, at the right time, throughout the day.
Predicting The Unpredictable
We also have to plan for the unexpected and unpredictable, such as Mother Nature.
Adverse weather—be it forecast or not—adds an additional layer of complexity to our business. If the weather forecast says it’s going to be 80 degrees and sunny on Saturday but instead a thunderstorm blows through for two hours, our staffing model needs to change rapidly.
This is where my job gets fun. My IT team builds systems that capture all the data and uses it in real-time. We’ve developed the capability to apply historical data to live operations in the park, so personnel, food and retail locations can be adjusted accordingly.
All this is to give our guests the best experience possible. Our resources are moved to accommodate unexpected shifts in the predicted model. And it’s all seamless to our guests—without revealing the magic.
But There’s No Instant Fix
Adopting this type of technology takes time.
A few years ago, our senior management challenged our IT team to think big. We analyzed our operations and realized that expanding access to real-time big data would allow park management to dramatically change their approach, to better meet the needs of our guests.