Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent
November, 1st 2013

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Elizabeth O'Brien in

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One of the key tenets of IBM’s sponsorship portfolio is the ability it give us to showcase our technology in a familiar explicable context. IBM brings the same approach and technology to our sports and entertainment sponsorships as we do to our industry clients around the world. In both cases, we begin with business objectives and develop solutions to address those objectives based on the IBM’s core technologies, products, software and services.

I recently attended IBM’s Enterprise 2013 conference in Orlando, Florida and sat down with leaders from both a sports sponsorship property (Nicole Jeter-West, USTA) and an industry client (Roxanne Reynolds-Lair, Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising) to discuss how IBM’s technology has helped them to achieve their business objectives as well as the insights we’ve developed over decades of partnership.

User experience is a key driver of business success

Not surprisingly, when I asked Nicole and Roxanne about their business objectives, both immediately talked about their key audiences (tennis fans and students, respectively) and how the engagement of those audiences is core to the growth of their businesses.

Although the USTA and FIDM both know their audiences well, it is a complex task to develop an experience that will serve their needs over time and across platforms. Over time, there are spikes in demand and changes in the kind of content that users are seeking. Additionally people within the same user segment—in fact the same users themselves—want to engage across platforms depending on where and when they are accessing information. The result is that designing an experience that will address behavior cycles and desktop, mobile and tablet platforms requires a well defined strategy and complex array of hardware, software and services to make it run seamlessly.

Infrastructure is the underpinning of a smooth user experience

As we discussed the goals and challenges of developing compelling user experiences, Nicole and Roxanne both cited the importance of a flexible infrastructure that can instantly react to unpredictable changes in demand and conditions. Although we are seeing an proliferation of software and features, as Roxanne put it, “businesses today are driven by what software is out there but then I think it’s critical that you find an integrated, secure, flexible, agile, reliable (all those buzzwords), platform that you can run it on, because you can buy the best software in the world but if it doesn’t have a solid foundation, it’s not going to work.

A social world makes it easier to get feedback but ups the ante

It was clear from our conversation that the USTA and FIDM have built experiences based on an array of technology products and services. They’ve both watched their own business cycles as well as the behavior of their key audiences to prioritize the features and functions that will define the future experience across platforms.

Additionally, they closely monitor feedback, (both direct and across social media) from their audiences to measure how well they are doing. The feedback they get from social media is robust—ranging from comments on the technology itself to comments on content (from tennis players to curricula) to endorsements of the USTA and FIDM themselves.  Nicole and Roxanne both noted that they like the 2 way nature of the conversation—especially appreciating when fans and students thank them for doing something well—and that this kind of dialogue allows their organizations to make targeted improvements to the experience quickly.

In the end, better feedback creates better experiences that drive the business success of both the USTA and FIDM.

What struck me at the end of our discussion was how wide ranging the conversation had been—including user segments, experience design, software, mobile platforms, infrastructure and social media. Despite this apparent complexity, Nicole and Roxanne both bring every discussion of new features, functions and technology back to how it will drive a better user experience and how it will map to their own business objectives, bringing them (and our discussion) full circle.

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