Red Sox call the bullpen for IP telephony

Steve Conley is director of IT for the Boston Red Sox, where he oversees infrastructure for the World Series Champions. In this interview with ADT, he discusses the IP telephony implementation of Avaya at Fenway Park and Fort Myers, Fla., Red Sox’ spring training facility.

Q. What system did the Red Sox have before it implemented Avaya? Why did it make the switch?

A. We had a Centrex system and two small Nortel Key systems in Fort Myers. We completely outgrew the capabilities of the Centrex system. The old Centrex system provided phone service to 250 full-time and seasonal staff at Fenway [Park]. It was difficult to manage, and it was becoming expensive to maintain. There was no way for us to really manage those costs or share features. Even moving staff to a different office in the building was difficult, and involved a two-day process.

Q. Did the Red Sox look at any other vendors besides Avaya? What advantages did Avaya have that the other vendors did not?

A. We had done some research with Nortel, but we had already rented a small Definity system from Carousel Industries [an Avaya partner] to support our ticket office for the 2003 season as a trial. Definity is Avaya’s IP-enabled PBX that runs Avaya Communications Manager software.

Our ticket office was using a 20-year-old Mitel system whose power supply blew up about a month before tickets went on sale. Carousel Industries provided us with the equipment on a trial basis for the ticket office, and by the time it came to choose a vendor for the office replacement, Avaya just made sense.

During the trial, everything worked great! We already had proof of concept that the Avaya solution would exceed our needs, eliminating a long, drawnout and costly RFP process, when we felt like we already had the superior product in house.

Q. What went into the planning to make the switch to Avaya at Fenway? How long did the Avaya setup take in Fenway and Fort Meyers? Were there any challenges implementing this system?

A. The Centrex system was pretty old, and a lot had to be changed. We did the transition around the Christmas holidays so it didn’t cause too much difficulty for staff, and the whole thing took about two weeks. However, the project plan was well over a month of hard work. We had zero downtime and no lost calls. Coordinating phone number transition from Centrex to Avaya was the most difficult. Our Centrex system supported four different local dial exchanges.

We had to coordinate and map all of these numbers to a new block. If that work was not done up front, the project would have been a disaster. The Florida setup was 2-3 days prior to the start of spring training.

Q. What benefits have the Red Sox had since implementing Avaya? How has the system helped the Red Sox executive offices, team and scouts?

A. We have around 100 full time and 150 seasonal workers. Everyone benefits; staff who travel a lot use new IP phones, but staff at the office have four-digit dialing and better messaging. Some of our staff [receive] long messages with game information orplayer stats, so now they can record that right on their PC.

The entire office is reachable with four-digit dialing, including Florida. When people move to Florida for spring, they have one number and voice mail. We cut down overall costs of conference call service by using Avaya conferencing service.

Using IP softphones for scouts, we cut down on credit card usage; the phones let the scouts make calls by using the IP softphone application on their laptops—now we don’t have to pay hotel or out-of-country tolls for these calls. We rolled out the IP softphones during our Christmas project.

Q. Do the Red Sox have any other plans for its Avaya system? If so, what are they and when do the Red Sox plan to implement them?

A. We are always looking to improve our system and will continue to leverage new technology to improve office communications.

We still have some old wiring at Fenway. The goal is to swap that out and go 100-percent IP. We’d also like to make Fenway into a hotspot, which we have in our press box. We’re also looking at connecting our minor league operations.


About the Author

Kathleen Ohlson is senior editor at Application Development Trends magazine.