An old axiom says you are either part of the solution or part of the problem. That certainly applies to the past few years. We've experienced economic shifts the likes of which we haven't seen in decades, and these shifts have caused businesses to focus on every penny spent and every dollar of revenue earned.
Most times, IT is viewed as a cost of running the business. However, there are times we can actually help drive the revenue engine.
Like every other industry, the sports and entertainment field has been affected by the economy. Fans have less discretionary income to spend on an ever-increasing number of entertainment opportunities. Companies have pared back their investments in marketing sponsorships and are spending fewer dollars on entertaining their clients at sporting events.
If we want to keep our bottom line healthy, we need to do more than drive efficiencies: We need to feed the revenue machine. So we've made strategic investments that have created revenue opportunities for our organization.
In our post-9/11 world, security is a larger issue than ever before. Some years ago, we invested in a new access-control solution to ensure that only fans with scanned tickets or credentialed people working to support the event would be allowed on campus during the US Open tennis championship matches.
One of the side benefits of this solution is that we now have a real-time count of how many people are on campus at any given time. Why does this matter? Because there are public safety limitations on how many people we can host at any one time. Now that we have a real-time count, we can sell additional grounds passes to fans who want to watch the matches.
This has created a seven-figure increase in ticket revenue for each year's tournament. So, for an investment of about $50,000 in technology, we are driving millions of dollars in additional revenue. Talk about a compelling ROI!
We also implemented a campuswide wireless mesh network. In addition to ensuring that our players, media guests and others have wireless Internet access, we networked the kiosks on the outer fringes of our campus that were too far away to have wired connections to our point-of-sales systems.
Before we had this solution, the systems could take only cash. Now they can handle credit card and debit card transactions as well. The bottom line? Another investment of about $25,000 is driving an additional annual six-figure increase in concessions revenue.
Finally, we implemented a new system to provide a coordinated incident response, which we call EMS, for Event Management System. This allows everyone from FBI agents to beverage distributors to report, track and resolve any medical, security or operational issues.
The people who work in our Command Center told us they had never had access to such an easy-to-use and feature-rich solution at any of the other sports or entertainment events they support around the world. That got us to thinking that we might be able to share this solution with other events and venues and leverage this asset to drive new licensing revenue.
We have just started to test interest in this solution, so we don't know whether it will drive revenue. But we continue to take every opportunity to leverage the work we do in IT to create new and enhanced revenue streams. This helps both our credibility as business leaders and our popularity with our CFO--very good things!
Larry Bonfante is CIO of the United States Tennis Association and founder of CIO Bench Coach. He can be reached at Larry@CIOBenchCoach.com.
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