A few years ago, the Boston Red Sox started using the Akumina Employee Experience Platform (EXP) to create a digital workplace called Home Plate.
The Red Sox are an interesting use case because they have a diverse group of employees interacting with the site for communications, collaboration, and vital tools for their vastly different and often desk-less jobs. Plus, many employees have non-traditional hours and work weeks.
The Red Sox also have a wide variety of groups updating content and information on the site.
This presented a unique challenge on the days when there were games, concerts, functions, and during the offseason and those few months when the workforce is much smaller, said Brian Shield, chief information officer for the team.
“We have a broad range of responsibilities, and if you think about a game that goes on, it ranges in everything, from groundkeepers, to ballpark operations, and security, and fan services, and client services, and ticket takers, and greeters, and technology, and security, and – there’s probably some 20 or so departments that have to work together in a very collaborative manner in order to pull these things off,” he said.
Let’s take a look at how the Red Sox operate their site and build employee experiences.
Who at the Red Sox runs and maintains the Akumina site?
Although the IT department built and “owns” Home Plate, content comes from several other sources and departments, who are empowered and entrusted to make updates and keep the flow of information funneling into their modern intranet.
“We’re loaded with historians who put articles out there. We have another person responsible for memorabilia and they’ll put new content out there,” Shield said. “HR does daily updates. We have public relations that puts information out there. Some of our baseball media folks also post content. Our menus are updated separately through a relationship with our concessionaire partner.
“A lot of people are doing more traditional content updates,” he added. “We’re kind of automating a lot of the process, because a lot of the content that falls into Home Plate revolves around baseball games. So, photographers get involved in content. We’re building APIs into other systems where we’re effectively integrating, so it requires limited amount of manual input to process a given day’s transactions, if you will.”
What did the Red Sox build and how?
Shield’s team created a mobile-friendly digital workplace for 350 year-round employees and more than 1,000 seasonal, day-of-game employees with different needs and tasks. Home Plate was built on top of Microsoft Office 365 and Azure, and connects through APIs to third-party software and services. The result is a single-pane-of-glass experience for employees to be productive in how they do their everyday work, but also for them to create, manage, and update engaging experiences.
The Red Sox launched a digital employee hub for every staff member. Home Plate is both mobile-friendly and an intuitive user experience for accessing game-related details, launching key applications, and allowing employees to stay informed with communication on everyday updates, all within a secure environment.
“We’ve collected a lot of the content and put it in to one place so we can effectively move from a push model that was heavily dependent on email, to really, kind of a pull model that we hope is more effective in serving a very broad range of employees,” he said.
Coolest features of the site
Being in the sports entertainment industry, undoubtedly makes for high expectations when it comes to employee experiences, so how do the Red Sox use tech to connect with their own people?
“We have kind of an AI chatbot that provides information to the employees, and particularly game employees – every question that we cultivate, that fans ask us,” Shield said. “It serves a couple different purposes. One of them is that it’s a bit of a learning tool. It can answer every question from, ‘How do I find vegan food?’ to ‘How do I find my seat?’ or ‘Where is the section of the ballpark, where are restaurants?’ – that type of thing.”
He said it’s a great way to understand fans and fan behavior so Red Sox employees can do a better job of providing customer service.
“What we learn from this chatbot is we’re now thinking more of a new version of this evolving to a chatbot for internal services,” Shield said. “So, why couldn’t we have a chatbot for benefits administration, or for questions that might come to the IT group, or to finance, or other groups? So, same kinds of things, the notion of how do we effectively answer employees’ questions? I see this sort of evolving from fan entertainment questions to answering employee questions.”
The feature works well on their mobile app, and has spawned new and creative ways of adapting customer-experience-like engagement for internal purposes to spark productivity.
Home Plate also has real-time game updates, like a public-facing website, yet another way employee experiences can mirror digital experiences that customers interact with.
“So, if you have the site app it will show you pitch by pitch, every piece of information, you know, ‘Xander Bogaerts is up with the counts of 3-2. Oh, he just walked or hit a home run,’ that sort of thing,” Shield said.
The Red Sox just launched Home Plate 2.0, a redesigned site with an updated look, again, to feel and respond to users like advanced public-facing digital experiences on any device. Shield said the new design should allow employees to get up to speed on the site quicker.
“We made a number of updates, so that’s one of the things I really like about the product is that it actually enables fairly rapid updates without too much complexity,” Shield said.
The Red Sox are also trying to simplify and streamline their content creation and workflow.
“I think what differentiates sites that are effective and those that struggled sometimes is the ease of content management,” Shield said. “And having a content management system like (Akumina has) behind the scenes is awesome, and that goes a long way. But we’re always looking for ways to simplify content entry.”
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