Few U.S. professional sports teams are so well-known that they fill stadiums wherever they go. The Boston Red Sox are that kind of team.
Founded in 1901, the eight-time champions of Major League Baseball frequently draw sellout crowds for home games at historic Fenway Park, and draw large crowds at other ballparks, as well. Data is key to driving that level of consistent success.
In 2002, utilizing a system of statistical analysis similar to what the Oakland A’s had adopted, and which was later profiled in a bestselling book and movie entitled Moneyball, Boston Red Sox former General Manager Theo Epstein struck financially savvy deals that would propel the 2004 championship team. Data-driven analysis would win bring another title in 2007 and a third in 2013.
Sophisticated number-crunching had become central to the Red Sox’s success, and not just on the field. In 2011, the finance team adopted Planful’ cloud-based enterprise performance management (EPM) platform to keep a lid on expenses, ensuring profits despite a high degree of volatility in the underlying business of running a storied baseball club.
Too Many Excel Sheets, Not Enough Insight
Ticket sales can ebb and flow according to where the team resides in the standings. Keeping a watchful eye on expenses can be crucial to ending the season in the black.
“We had maybe 100 or so different Excel templates that different managers would fill out. Those all linked into a mothership workbook and would ultimately serve as our reporting package when it came to the budget,” says Ryan Scafidi, Senior Director of Financial Planning and Operations for the Red Sox, noting the process was too labor-intensive to perform more than twice a year.
With limited infrastructure for gathering data from key departments in timely manner and tracking key forecast drivers, Scafidi says his team was forced to budget for worst-case scenarios. He convinced club executives to upgrade to Planful in response. Department heads took to the platform immediately.
Planful Unlocks $1 Million In Savings
“We have 57 users today. Because the solution is cloud-based, they don’t have to be on the network, they can do it from home. They can do it from the beach. They can get their stuff done on their own time within the deadlines that we set. It makes the process a lot more efficient,” Scafidi says, joking that compiling reports now takes “five minutes” rather weeks. “I’m being dramatic a little bit, but it’s not that far off.”
Forecasts are now run monthly, with on-demand financial reports influencing estimates. Department heads can also drill down and review specific expense lines and adjust their needs as often as necessary. For example, members of the facilities team uploaded photos of fading paint and ripped seat cushions found throughout Fenway Park in Planful, part of a plea for extra budget that hadn’t been allocated. The extra detail in the system made real their pitch for added budget.
“Because we’re able to be more proactive and forecast over the course of a year we saved an additional half-million to $1 million in expenses that otherwise would have been water under the bridge in the old, Excel-driven world,” Scafidi says.
To learn more, check out the complete Boston Red Sox case study.
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