Microsoft shoots for the Stanley Cup

Toronto – The Stanley Cup is the ultimate goal for all NHL teams.

The Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club last won the trophy in 1990 when Mark Messier was still their captain. The team, which finished last this season, hope to rebuild for the future and contracted Habanero Consulting Group of Vancouver to help them manage its player draft and development. Habanero, as you will see in this video, created Scout Portal from Sharepoint 2010 that will enable all Oilers scouts to collaborate better on new player acquisitions.

With the Stanley Cup sitting in the next room Microsoft Canada officially launched Office 2010, Sharepoint 2010, Project 2010 and Visio 2010 to the channel market place at the Hockey Hall of Fame.

This new set of productivity application suites from Microsoft is intended to help small to mid-size businesses in improving internal business processes. Antoine LeBlond, senior vice president of the Office Productivity Applications Group at Microsoft said that SMB customers are getting aggressive on growth plans and it’s not just because of the expected economic rise.

“They know that the growth has to come from within and with better business processes they can achieve more and will look to IT to help them. There are very high expectations in the market place today as we come out of the economic dip,” he said.

One such case is the Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club of the National Hockey League (NHL). The last time the Oilers won the Stanley Cup was 1990 and this past season the team that once featured hall of famers Wayne Gretzkyand Mark Messier finished dead last in the NHL standings. As they try to rebuild the team towards success on the ice and on the balance sheet the Oilers have the No. 1 overall draft choice in this summers hockey entry draft. Consensus among hockey experts say the Oilers should choose either Taylor Hall of the Windsor Spitfires or Tyler Seguin of Plymouth Whalers. But which one will they choose?

According to Sean Draper, director of research for the Edmonton Oilers, the team’s scouts are scoured all over the globe including remote places such as Siberia. “Our scouts try to find players who can help us win the Stanley Cup,” Draper said. The way professional hockey teams scout and acquire players has changed dramatically. The Facebook generation has hit the NHL by storm and young players about 15 years of age are tracked with as much information as possible; even the girlfriend of the prospect is known by scouts.

The issue facing the Oilers is that all this information is with the scouts and the workforce is never assembled together in one room except for draft day. “Our scouts are in every province, every state and in Europe,” said Draper.

Draper and the Oilers turned to Vancouver-based solution provider Habanero Consulting for a customized Sharepoint 2010 solution called Scout Portal. Scout Portal embraces the new social media craze and provides scouts with video footage taken form the players themselves and fans from all over the world. Scout Portal works in conjunction with the Oilers’ RinkNet database and includes a calendar that tracks all scouts and it has the capability to update links to game reports on a daily basis. Each player prospect has his own page and the team is able to rank that player which helps the Oilers in drafting. There is a photo of the player along with his stats pack. But, Draper said that Scout Portal goes beyond the static Web page profile. “With this tool scouts can go to a higher level of talent assessment and it’s all in one spot for all scouts to see at the same time,” he said.

For example, a scout can put together a video package of a prospects’ physical game and share it with the rest of the scouting team for evaluation. In the past, there would be a long debate over a single player’s physical game and it was all based on different points of view without any video to back it up.

Brian Edwards, practice leader for Habanero, said Sharepoint technology enables the customer to get business value. “The Oilers came to us and we thought ‘this is a cool business case to help someone win the Stanley Cup’ and immediately thought of the video capabilities that could be tagged and ranked for this portal,” Edwards said.

However, the key to Scout Portal is its collaboration features. The portal can pull information from the team’s line of business systems, social networkings, enterprise content management, and video. The content management component also has the ability to retire data which helps to streamline the portal.“This is the ultimate composite application for collaboration and it’s a great fit for the Oilers and its customers,” Edwards said.

Edwards added that this solution is repeatable and can track player performance or development along with scouting the professional players for upcoming games.Draper said that the cost benefit of Scout Portal is to win the Stanley Cup. “When we draft players and sign them it costs $1.2 or 3 million in order to get that player into our development system. We draft seven players and that’s around $10 million dollars for those players.

The cost benefit for this system is a fraction of that. With that kind of investment we can have 20 of these systems and it would be totally worth it for us. We are developing players and we need this kind of tool.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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