The Partner The Indians are a Minor League Baseball team in Indianapolis, Indiana. The team plays in the International League and is the Triple-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Founded in 1902, the Indians are the second-oldest minor league franchise in American professional baseball. The team’s mascot is Rowdie the Bear, and its home is Victory Field, part of White River State Park, in downtown Indianapolis. The open-air facility features 12,200 permanent seats, 2,000 additional seats and 29 luxury suites. The Indians ended their 2016 season with the highest overall attendance in Minor League Baseball: 636,888. AIS has now worked with the Indians for the past two years. For the last eight months, AIS has been the team’s exclusive IT management company.   The Problem Hosting a ballgame requires more than just opening the gates. The ability to operate in the sports entertainment industry is about the audience enjoying the holistic event down to the smallest details. Crowds will return, regardless of a winning season, if they have a good experience. Six years ago, the Indians recognized the need to advance technologically to provide their fans with a better experience: from video boards to ticket purchasing to in-game Internet access. A positive fan experience heavily depended on the availability of access to the IT-infrastructure environment. Four years ago, the team hired an IT company on a contract basis to implement significant technological updates. They upgraded their cabling infrastructure, added WiFi for fans and brought on full-time IT staff. Eventually, it became clear that the current staff was unable to handle the full scope of the technology infrastructure. Essentially, the staff’s daily routines had become inundated with “putting out fires” and reactive thinking versus looking forward and improving the audience experience for the future. In spite of the technological updates, they had become accustomed to utilizing old processes and methodologies; things were being done the way they had always been done. The organization needed more support to deal with current problems and a vision for becoming more efficient and streamlined as time progressed. The Solution AIS met with Matt Guay, the Assistant General Manager in charge of Tickets & Operations. Immediately, they hit it off. According to Matt, “AIS was not simply a vendor like the other companies I met with. I got the sense that they truly wanted to understand our business and help us implement our goals. I saw a future partnership and a long-term solution in them.” The Indians engaged AIS to operate in tandem with their current internal staff for the first year. AIS’ primary responsibility was to manage the overall security of the infrastructure. In 2015 (prior to engaging AIS), the team had a security breach in which a malicious virus infiltrated and encrypted data that hadn’t been previously backed up. AIS’s support ensured that nothing like that would ever happen again. In working with the in-house IT support, AIS engaged in a truly collaborative  IT environment. During the first season of the partnership, AIS analyzed pain points and offered innovative solutions. They also offered an IT management perspective that was proactive, rather than reactive. At that point, the Indians (with their 45 employees) began considering the process of eliminating their in-house IT staff to bring on AIS full-time. As Matt expressed it, “After that first year, it made sense to tap into the full capabilities of AIS.” However, the decision to move to a totally outsourced IT environment was not made lightly. The Indians underwent some serious deliberation and vetted AIS to ensure that the company was really capable of handling the entire scope of IT support for a multi-million dollar baseball entertainment franchise. Ultimately, AIS was able to demonstrate an expertise in information technology and a commitment to engaging the needs of the organization and prioritizing the fan experience. AIS presented a managed services plan that would meet the Indians’ current IT needs.  The plan would also adapt and grow with them over time. From then on, the Indians and AIS formed a true partnership, and the transition to outsourced IT support was straightforward and simple.   As the Indians’ exclusive IT management company, AIS was able to institute an IT ticket system to manage and maintain existing and potential issues for the organization. AIS’s focus was to ensure an incredibly positive fan experience. AIS established a highly available 24/7 IT infrastructure with an extremely high utilization of Internet applications, particularly social media apps, in order to improve that fan experience. With AIS’s managed services, the Indians were able to focus on progressing (rather than simply avoid regressing) in terms of both IT and the fan experience. AIS helped the Indians transition into an advanced technology company that leverages technology to provide fans with the best experience possible. Moving Forward The partnership between the Indians and AIS continues to flourish and grow. AIS remains an integral part of the team. Cody Rivers, COO of AIS, is able to effectively manage the company’s feet on the ground. Lamont Hatcher, CIO of AIS, is able to secure the Indians’ IT future in his role as vCIO. Lamont proactively functions as the Indians’ vCIO remotely. In addition, once a month he comes out in person to review their overall direction and goals. In doing so, he works with Indians’ management to plan 3-5 years down the road and aligns the team’s goals with their IT management plans. Lamont is constantly using his perspective to improve IT and offer new solutions. AIS is focused on bringing the Indians out of old habits and looking toward the future. According to Matt, AIS’s knowledge and understanding continues to provide the most significant difference. They are able to bring their expertise to the table, while gaining a true understanding of the business and goals of their clients. For both the Indians and AIS, fan experience is the highest priority. Together, they leverage technology to continually improve that experience. Ultimately, Matt feels confident knowing that he can pick up the phone any day, any time, and — no matter who answers — his problems will be solved, and his mind has been put at ease. The Indians know that technological issues will arise; however, it is AIS’s exceptional support and effort to solve those issues that sets this outstanding partnership apart. At AIS, we feel the issues that the Indians were experiencing are not uncommon. Although the organization is in a rare market, their IT needs are not unique. They were struggling with managing the consistent technological changes to support a rapidly growing organization. Many organizations — whether they are multi-million dollar franchises or small businesses — experience these identical struggles. This partnership with the Indians is a typical characteristic of the way we approach all our opportunities with every client. At AIS, we pride ourselves on listening to the client’s needs and leveraging technology to solve their business problems. Regardless of the clients’ individual market, AIS offers a high level of end-user satisfaction and productivity. AIS seeks to establish true partnerships with client organizations, and we do so by understanding and resolving clients’ IT-related business problems and by striving toward improvement and growth for the future.   If you want to build a true partnership and implement proactive, strategic IT solutions, it can all start today with a conversation. Start the conversation
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