Red Sox call the bullpen for IP telephony
- By Kathleen Ohlson
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
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
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
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.
ILLUSTRATION BY SCOTT POLLACK
Kathleen Ohlson is senior editor at Application Development Trends magazine.