Junior hockey team takes a shot on the Net

A new team in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has drafted a Web-based software system to run its back office.

The Saint John Sea Dogs, who will play their first regular-season game on Sept. 16 at Harbour Station in

Saint John, N.B., selected NetSuite, a hosted system from NetSuite Inc., of San Mateo, Calif., to handle functions like tracking customer information, product inventory and expenses.

NetSuite has some sports experience – it’s also on the roster of major league baseball’s Oakland Athletics. Most users of the software are small to medium-sized businesses, says Steve Frappier, director of sales at NetSuite Canada in Toronto. “Our application was actually built for that marketplace,” says Frappier, noting that the application service provider model – in which NetSuite hosts the software, the customer does not have to buy either the software or the hardware that runs it, and users connect to the system through any Web browser – appeals to organizations with limited technical expertise.

David Senf, program manager for software research at International Data Corp. (Canada) Ltd. in Toronto, says smaller organizations often lack the resources to manage software internally, so the ASP model may appeal to them. “As we move down the road, the software-as-a-service model will start to take hold in a greater way than it has to date,” says Senf.

That model is certainly what attracted the Sea Dogs to NetSuite. “We have zero IT,” says David Turk, executive director of the hockey franchise. So the team liked the idea of having the software supplier do the work. “We don’t actually purchase the software, which is a big thing,” Turk says. “So all the upgrades, things like that, get taken care of from NetSuite.”

Because NetSuite uses a browser interface, users can connect to it from any computer with Internet access and a browser. That’s important to the Sea Dogs for a couple of reasons. While on the road, team staff – and players, who will be able to check their schedules and other information through the system – will have easy access to it. Scouts traveling throughout Eastern Canada will be able to enter expense reports remotely. And some of the team’s owners are in Toronto, where they will be able to log in to the system to check financial information whenever they wish, Turk says.

NetSuite will not handle the Sea Dogs’ ticket sales. That job falls to Harbour Station – the team’s home stadium – which uses ticketing software from Blackbaud Inc., of Charleston, S.C. NetSuite will be integrated with Harbour Station’s system so that ticket-sales information can be imported into NetSuite for use in tracking sales, marketing to fans and so forth.

The connection between the two systems is being forged using NetSuite’s NetFlex customization technology. Turk says the integration work is under way, and initial data on season ticket holders should be imported into NetSuite within days. “We’re still in the midst of trials on that, but it is looking hopeful,” he reports.

The plan is that data will be transferred from Harbour Station’s Blackbaud ticketing system into NetSuite in daily batches, Turk says. Soon, Harbour Station will be launching on online ticket-sales system, and the Sea Dogs hope to integrate NetSuite with this as well.

The Sea Dogs will be dropping Simply Accounting, which the team initially used to keep its accounts, and moving that function into NetSuite.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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