I recently had the opportunity to do something I’ve always dreamed of doing. Walk up to home plate at Fenway Park and imagine myself blasting a shot over the Green Monster. (Note: It’s further than you think!) I had this rare experience when I was able to join Bob Harkins, Vice President at Carousel Industries, as we visited with Steve Conley, the Director of IT for the Red Sox in his Fenway Park offices.
Carousel has been working closely with the Red Sox since 2003, when as Steve explained it, “We had a Centrex/Hybrid phone system running our call center that was antiquated, and it blew up a few weeks before the season started. Literally! Carousel stepped in and came up big to help us get through the season.” By bringing expertise and specialized manpower to bear, Carousel put a loaner Definity system in place for the 2003 season, and was able to help the Sox address the immediate short-term issues, while buying time to develop a strategy that would allow the organization to begin addressing its long-term priorities and goals while putting in a technology backbone for growth.
“Even though people look at the Red Sox as an New England institution and a nationally recognized brand, we are actually a small company with only 160 full-time employees” explained Conley. “So when Carousel helped implement our new Avaya system, we worked closely with them and relied on their expertise to make sure it enabled us to do things we had never been able to do before.” Carousel worked with the Red Sox team to help identify key objectives and business drivers that the system needed to address, including:
Ensuring the ticketing “Contact Center” system would integrated with the rest of the organization
Making the ticketing system “fair” to allow everyone equal access to tickets
Eliminating busy signals when fans call in – no easy task when there are only 15 call center assets
Defining infrastructure requirements, from necessary T1 bandwidth, to scalability of the network for future growth, to cabling needs in an enormous, 100 year old steel and concrete facility
“Carousel helped put together the strategy and really brought expertise to the table that allowed us to move forward with confidence,” said Conley. Carousel has also worked closely with the Red Sox to make progress on many fronts and keep us with current technology and opportunities. For example, “upgrading to VoIP for the organization and the Contact Center meant upgrading our network backbone to support that initiative. The Carousel relationship has been great, because they have had to be flexible and creative in helping us solve problems and responsive in implementing solutions.”
The Future of Red Sox Nation: Beyond Fenway
Today, the Red Sox are looking at ways to build upon a Unified Communications platform in creative ways to help the organization succeed. Some of the key initiatives we discussed include:
With the proliferation of consumer technology amongst the Red Sox staff, an amazing thing happened. “Our medical team, trainers and coaches started using Apple’s Facetime video calls to collaborate and discuss injuries, assess rehab issues and review player mechanics”, explained Conley. “Obviously this approach, while beneficial, has limitations. However, we quickly saw the opportunities for the organization. Our endgame is now to get a video backbone in place to allow us to securely collaborate over video, with multiple participants from various locations.”
The parks are all being outfitted with video conferencing infrastructure and the new system will connect all the parks, allow for the sharing of MRI information, X-rays and other medical data, while speeding the decision making process and eliminating the need for unnecessary travel.
Unified Communications and ONE-X Mobile
“With Carousel’s help, we are continuing to improve our Unified Communications capability and tie the entire organization together,” explained Conley. As Harkins describes in more detail, “They have voicemail and email coming together on one inbox, and now with the the explosion of smartphones, we are working to implement Avaya’s ONE-X mobile solution. This will enable 4-digit calling on the network, so you can call someone’s extension and know you’ll reach your contact regardless of the device they are on or their location.”
As Conley sums it up, “The payoff for this will really come when the season starts and people are everywhere. Regardless of whether they are at spring training, scouting, or traveling for games, they can connect with colleagues like they are sitting at their desk.”
“We appreciate the long term relationships we build with our clients, and the Red Sox are a great example of that,” explains Harkins. “Initially, we were brought in during a crisis. Today, we work closely with Steve and his team to make the most effective decisions for the Red Sox organization regardless of the product or technology. Our engineers understand Steve’s business objectives and we do our best to craft recommendations to achieve those goals. The Red Sox will challenge our team to do better, short and long term. It has proven to be a great partnership over the years, one I’d like to emulate with all of our clients, and we look forward to the next challenge.”