Getting fans to buy tickets for rugby union tours, such as the upcoming British Lions tour, has been made easier for the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) thanks to its customer relationship management (CRM) system.
The ARU's existing CRM dates back to the Rugby World Cup 2003 and is due to be replaced later in 2013.
"That CRM contains the membership and ticketing base from which we can communicate with our members," says ARU CFO Todd Day.
"We process memberships and receive payments. We then ticket those members into stadiums."
On the professional side, the CRM is used for match official relationships and player management.
"In the community rugby space, teams use it for registering and monitoring courses such as coaching," Day says.
Using an email marketing system called StrongMail, fans get sent monthly newsletters, merchandise and sponsor offers.
"Sponsors see these messages as a benefit to them because they can communicate to a core demographic of people," he says.
The ARU operates an IT team which is divided into infrastructure, applications and digital. On the infrastructure side, it has provided the digital platform powering the website content management system (CMS) for the Queensland Reds, New South Wales Waratahs, Western Australian Force and the Australian Capital Territory Brumbies.
"We also provide statistics from Fox Sports for tipping competitions that they run on their websites," Day says.
In addition, the ARU runs a system called Smarter Base which monitors the welfare of players including sports injuries and how the player is feeling. This data is collected by coaching staff via email from the players.
A dedicated analyst team takes feeds from Fox Sports on a weekly basis. That is then collated and coded under a player monitoring and tracking system fed down to the Australian Super Rugby teams so they can do their own analysis of the data.
In addition to operating its own IT department, the ARU works with New Zealand head quartered Microsoft partner Intergen.
Last year Intergen helped the ARU implement Microsoft Dynamics AX, an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.
"The partner also did a scoping exercise for the implementation of a new CRM into the business. We are implementing a new CRM system this year but we haven't made a decision on whether it will be Microsoft yet," he says.
Role of the CFO
Day has been CFO of the ARU for two years, and previously worked as the CFO of the NSW Rugby Union. While he doesn't think the nature of the CFO role has changed, Day believes technology can help CFOs do their role more efficiently.
"In terms of technology, we're able to process information a lot more efficiently and quicker," he says. "The analysis of that information is a lot broader so the ability to report and work with the business in a timely, efficient and reliable manner has been improved from systems in place years ago."
According to Day, Dynamics AX gives the ARU greater control over how the business commits to expenditure and how it processes information.
"No longer is the business relying on finance to produce a report and spit it out 15 days after the month has ended," he says.
"The business can go into the system on a real-time basis, see what has been processed and see how they are lining up against budgets. That's where I see technology has played a big part."
Day says CFOs need to "embrace and understand" technology. From his perspective, the ARU develops professional players and runs events which connect fans with corporate sponsors. Those sponsors want to see a return on their investment and their questions are more stringent than they used to be," he says.
"We need to prove that if the sponsors are investing money, they are reaching the intended audience. We do that by working in the digital world."
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