The Boston Red Sox have many weapons to keep the team winning on the field: powerful hitters, a seasoned pitching rotation, and an experienced coaching staff.
But off the field -- and in the data center -- a key role player for the Sox has been SharePoint 2010.
At the SPTechCon SharePoint conference in Boston last week, Red Sox IT director Steve Conley stepped up to the plate for a Q&A with Microsoft's (MSFT) SharePoint Product Management Director Christian Finn.
Conley's IT group consists of six team members that serve 250 people in the Red Sox organization. For 81 home games a year, the IT group is "in charge of anything that has a plug," says Conley, with a laugh. "If you have to turn it on, I'm probably going to get called."
Boston Red Sox
The exception, he adds, is Fenway Park's giant scoreboard in center field, which is managed by a third party.
One of the biggest advances the Red Sox have made recently is to revamp its intranet portal, named "Red Sox Central", using SharePoint 2010.
The team's intranet homepage includes features such as Webcasts of game highlights, photo galleries, a ticket dashboard for executives to manage their game tickets and weather widgets for Boston and Fort Myers, Fla., home of the Red Sox spring training camp.
Slideshow: 10 Things We Love About SharePoint 2010
Within Red Sox Central, Conley -- a Red Sox employee since 2001 when they "still had typewriters" -- wanted to configure SharePoint to solve problems such as requesting and allocating tickets, getting credentials from visitors, and paying and organizing invoices.
[ For complete coverage on Microsoft's SharePoint collaboration software -- including enterprise and cloud adoption trends and reviews of SharePoint 2010 -- see CIO.com's SharePoint Bible. ]
On the SPTechCon stage, Conley explained how moving to SharePoint in the past few years has liberated the Red Sox from of its tech dark days of scanning and e-mailing documents, snail mailing invoices and waiting days to hear back about ticket requests.
Ticket Request Application
Red Sox employees are allotted a certain number of tickets for the season. These ticket requests had to be made through the Red Sox ticket office via paper forms, a time-consuming process that could take anywhere from hours to days.
"We were able to automate all that with SharePoint using an online form for ticket request and acquisition."
As Conley expected, the online ticket request form quickly became, and has remained, the most popular section of Red Sox Central site for employees.
Can I see Some Credentials?
Conley created a credentials request form on Red Sox Central where requestors could describe their role (visitor, guest, partner), as well as which event or game they were attending, and where they needed to be in Fenway Park. Similar to the online form for tickets, this process had previously been very clunky, done manually using paper forms.
"When a requester submits the online form, it goes to one IT person. It's just simple process automation," says Conley.
Streamlining Player Fan Mail
The Red Sox are also using SharePoint to sort out the mountains of player fan mail that comes into the organization.
All snail mail is entered into SharePoint -- not scanned but entered -- in a hellish-sounding transcribing marathon done by interns. Conley did mention he is thinking about scanning the fan mail into SharePoint at some point. (But why not take advantage of those doe-eyed summer interns when you can?)
The mail is then catalogued and sent to players' e-mail inboxes where they can respond to them personally.
Solving the Invoice Pile Up
Handling bills and invoices has long been a sluggish process for the Red Sox and sometimes led to late payments. But Conley implemented an online invoice process in SharePoint that has made life easier.
Using SharePoint, Conley managed to automate all billing and integrate it with the Red Sox ERP system (Microsoft Dynamics SL) using a workflow-based approval process. Bills are scanned into SharePoint and then end up in an online queue where they can be coded, paid and processed and then pulled into the organization's ERP system.
"Our busiest time for ordering stuff is spring training when we are down in Fort Myers," says Conley. "When the invoicing was all done on paper, the bills would often bounce back and forth between Boston and Fort Myers before they got paid & and then we'd pay the late fee."
Now that bill payments are automated in SharePoint, late fees are like the Curse of the Bambino. A thing of the past.
Shane O'Neill covers Microsoft, Windows, Operating Systems, Productivity Apps and Online Services for CIO.com. Follow Shane on Twitter @smoneill. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Shane at [email protected]