Hockey team scores with NetSuite

At the junior level most sports teams are small businesses and are run that way, with little in the way of IT sophistication. The Saint John Sea Dogs are looking to change that, turning to an application service provider to get major league CRM and ERP capabilities on a minor league budget.

The New Brunswick-based Sea Dogs begins its first season of play this fall in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Executive director David Turk said the team needed a way to use ticket sales information to design market offerings for fans, but with a front office staff of seven and no IT person it didn’t have the resources to support a complicated software platform.

Ticket sales are handled by the Harbour Station arena, where the team plays their home games, so as a starting point sales information needed to be moved from the arena’s system to their computers.

“We wanted everything in one central repository where we could track our season ticket base and communicate with them,” said Turk. “The big thing was being able to capture information once and then use it through as many different applications as possible.”

Turk said he talked to other sports teams to check out what they were doing, but said even at the NHL level CRM technology is still in its infancy, let alone at the junior level.

They looked at a number of offerings, including products from Oracle and Microsoft, before settling on a Web-based ASP product from San Mateo, Calif.-based NetSuite Inc.

Turk said he liked the ASP model because support and updates are handled by NetSuite, and with Web-based access his scouts on the road can file their expenses online and receive an e-payment the next day. NetSuite also replaced their Simply Accounting software. “I liked that Netsuite integrates ERP with CRM, so my financials are tied in with my CRM. I’m not dealing with two separate systems that have to tie together.”

With regular updates fed into NetSuite by Harbour Station, Turk said he gets daily updates on ticket sales. If, a few days before a big game, ticket sales aren’t where he’d like them to be, it gives him the ability to create an offer and send an e-mail blast to the team’s fans. “It allows us to make an informed decision with the information, and if we have to create a marketing campaign it’s done and into our consumers hands in an hour.”

In future, he said, he wants the team to gather even more customer information, and use it in new ways to reward and expand their fan base. “I’d love to see us able to track every customer that comes in, their merchandise and concession spending, and look at rewarding them or targeting our product mix to what they want,” said Turk. “That’s the vision I have going forward.”

This isn’t the first sports client for NetSuite.

Steve Frappier, director of sales for NetSuite Canada in Toronto, said the Oakland Athletics baseball team also uses NetSuite. He said NetSuite is a natural fit for applications around ticketing, the cornerstone of any sports business.

“Their biggest challenge is maintaining and retaining existing season ticket holders, adding more [of them], and being able to go back to that customer base and up selling or cross sell various packages,” said Frappier.

The Sea Dogs are also using NetSuite for their back office, inventory control, ERP, finances, and integrating with their Web store. Founded by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison in 1998, Frappier said NetSuite’s goal is to bring CRM and ERP functionalities to small and medium business that don’t want to or can’t handle the support and maintenance.

“It allows companies to work on what’s important to them, running their business while their software is being run by us,” said Frappier.

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