Boston Red Sox steal first base with unified communications system

Mark Samuels Profile picture for user Mark Samuels July 4, 2019
Integration and innovation are the big benefits for the Major League Baseball team

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The Boston Red Sox baseball team is using unified communications to help employees connect and to provide a platform for future innovations in customer experience.

The Red Sox, who are one of the most successful Major League Baseball (MLB) teams and the current World Series Champions, were looking for a modern replacement for an aging communications system that was costly to maintain. After assessing alternative systems, the team chose Mitel’s multi-site unified communications technology.

The system bring benefits both on and off the field of play, says Brian Shield, vice president of information technology for the Red Sox, who spoke with diginomica around the recent MLB London Series, where the team played two games against arch rivals New York Yankees at the London Stadium, home of West Ham United Football Club:

We use Mitel technology within baseball as a communications vehicle between our club houses and our bullpens, where the players warm up. It brings us reliability – it enables communication on the field as the game is played. It also works with everything that we do as an organisation. What we're really excited about with Mitel is that, as they continue to exploit their technology platforms, we see a tremendous number of opportunities for using their system as the communications glue that really ties together so many of our initiatives.

When it comes to game day, Mitel provides a unified communications system for all 30 MLB clubs. The standardised system is based on the MiVoice Business platform and 6920 IP phones. The system, which was also implemented in the London Stadium for the recent MLB games, connects umpires and the Replay Review Center in New York City.

Going further

However, the Red Sox have chosen to go a step further and have introduced Mitel technology as the communications platform for organisational operations. The decision came two years ago when the team was replacing its telephony system at Fenway Park, its home ball park in the United States, and also at the Jet Blue Park training facility in Florida, its corporate offices in Boston and the team’s data centre.

The Red Sox required a distributed architecture that provides a resilient and secure network across this multi-site environment. The selected platform includes a Mitel IP-PBX system, with integrated unified communications, Enterprise Contact Center, conferencing and Mitel mobile apps. Shield says the technology is beneficial to the Red Sox in a number of ways:

It gives high-performance capabilities to all of our employees. Sporting environments tend to operate with very lean staff, so being able to ensure that your employees are highly partitioned and productive is critical. Giving them the tools that we now have with Mitel has made a big difference.

Red Sox were a former customer of ShoreTel, which Mitel acquired in 2017. The company’s technology was evaluated alongside other unified communications vendors, but Shield says he believed the system would be the best in terms of helping to support effective communication with season-ticket holders, front-office personnel, sales teams and baseball-scouting personnel around the US.

Shield says the system needed to be easy to manage and intuitive for end-users. The Red Sox also needed a communications platform that required little intervention from IT to help reduce maintenance and operation costs. Shield estimates the Red Sox save at least $25,000 a year on managed services costs alone from introducing Mitel technology. He says the technology also provides a boost to sales staff, helping Red Sox workers to meet supporters’ requirements quickly and effectively:

When a new season starts coming around – and people start thinking about going to games, whether it's season-ticket holders or other fans – we get a lot of phone calls. Our ability to have smart control over certain call volumes and our messaging allows our people to be very efficient. In the future, we believe that greater integration with some of our CRM systems will allow our sales teams to be able to respond to questions in a timelier manner.

The Red Sox are also looking to use the unified communications platform to introduce other enterprise applications. Shield says one of the strengths of the Mitel system is its ability to integrate software from other vendors. He says this openness will help the organization to develop and support new business use cases in the future:

Mitel has really taken the time to integrate all those different types of platforms through application programming interfaces into their collaboration suite. Those third-party applications include all elements of how we run our stadium, everything from how we handle employees’ time and tracking to concessions, merchandising and ticketing. Having the ability to have highly efficient and effective integration is really good. We see that pretty much as a competitive advantage for our business.”

Some of the potential areas for future development branch into pioneering areas, certainly when it comes to the business of sport. Shield says one of the things the Red Sox are looking at is to extend customer service capability through artificial intelligence:

That’s about developing the ability for us to be able to work with Mitel and their partners like Google to take questions from fans and to leverage that information to be able to provide our supporters with answers in a very timely manner. We think there’s a unique opportunity to use AI to dramatically improve an aspect of our fan experience by addressing the problems that fans have and being able to anticipate their concerns.

Those AI-led advancements, says Shield, are still at a nascent level of development right now. However, he has big plans for collaborative technology and he has best-practice advice for other IT leaders in sport who are thinking of introducing unified communications technology:

We've many other peers at Major League Baseball clubs and they're now leveraging a lot of the cloud capabilities to do things that were historically challenging. The Mitel solution in the cloud creates a highly scalable and stable platform. They’ve implemented a lot of things that – going forward, through their cloud links – should operate as the standard for how we integrate internal or third-party apps. I feel like that we’re future-proofing the kinds of things that we'll be able to do and the services that we’ll aim to provide.

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