NBA's IT Team Makes Play With Web, CRM Initiatives

Interviewee: Michael Gliedman, vice president and CIO

Company: The National Basketball Association (NBA)

Main location: New York; IT is based in Secaucus, N.J.

Number of IT employees: About 100 across core IT, infrastructure and technical support for NBA.com, and a dedicated team for a customer relationship management (CRM) initiative.

Number of employees (end users): 1,000

With the playoffs, the finals, the Women's NBA season and the upcoming draft, the NBA has a lot going on in June. What kind of pressure does that put on IT? "There's a lot of pressure and excitement. We go to the finals to give our marketing, PR and production people everything on-site that they have in the office - calendaring, e-mail, video and content creation for the Web site, and networking via [Digital Subscriber Line] and a [virtual private network] back to the data center. At the end of each day, we create and send a daily activity memo to everyone in the league.

"But the pressure really is year-round, because we support about 30 live events a year, we're starting up the National Basketball Development League [the new minor league starting its first season in November], and we support NBA.com and NBA.com TV [a digital satellite channel] and the WNBA."

Mission-critical systems: "The Web site, e-mail and our statistics system. We have two people courtside at each game with touch-screen laptops to collect data. During the game, they tap on the screen to select a player, a position and the action that occurred [such as a three-point shot or a free throw], and that's all shuttled back to the data center in real time for use in things like 'My Highlights' [a Web feature that enables fans to create their own highlight reels online]."

Major initiatives: "The CRM system, E.piphany, which we're rolling out across the league. It will be a mission-critical system when it's completed, because it will be a real revenue generator. The Miami Heat is the first implementation. We'll be able to call up fans, like season ticket holders, to offer tickets [and other promotions]."

IT career paths: "We don't have any formal career paths, but we've been tremendously successful at rotating people around the department to give them new opportunities. The NBA is a complicated place, and when we have someone who knows the environment, performs well and shows initiative, that's the best candidate for an open position."

Workday: "We average a 10- to 12-hour day, starting about 8 [a.m.]. But depending on what's going on, people may work as late as 11 [p.m.], and if you're supporting a live event, you may have an 18- to 20-hour day."

Little perks: "Good access to game tickets" via an internal ticket-request system, discounts at the NBA store, subsidized health club memberships and "getting to go to the live events. We have teams of people who . . . know how to set things up, and we integrate newer people onto those teams to train them."

Would employees feel comfortable e-mailing the NBA commissioner, David Stern? "Yes, David is undoubtedly the leader of the NBA, and he makes himself very available to his people. He really appreciates technology and what it can do for the league."

- Leslie Jaye Goff (lgoff@ix.netcom.com)

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