"The way we currently operate we have a software system for our ticketing and a separate software system for our donor management. Our database of subscribers for premium audio and video content that streams on the web (Maroon to the Max) is managed by the same company that handles our website, but none of these things are intertwined.
"What we are basically doing is pulling all those areas into one database that will be managed by one software package. That will allow us to more effectively target markets and allow us to communicate with our donors more effectively. Right now, the databases are in separate areas on separate servers and they don't communicate in real time.
"As an example, when we have our Bulldog Club renewal time during the year, we have to take the ticket information that is in our ticketing software and actually download it into our Bulldog Club system and vice versa. With this new system everything will be in one database where we can track everything that everybody does in their account with the athletic department."
Does that mean you will be able to pull up a person's account and see not only their Bulldog Club information but their ticket information as well?
"Yes, we will know their tickets, how many they have bought, their location, their past ticket purchases, their donations, their past donations, their online store purchases and whether or not they subscribe to Maroon to the Max. That should make us much more effective when it comes to dealing with people.
"And it will really help us when it comes to targeting different areas of our alums and fans. For instance, let's say we are playing a game in Pearl, Mississippi. And we want a list of everybody in the surrounding counties of Madison, Rankin and Hinds who have baseball season tickets and who have made a purchase at the online store in the last six weeks. We then can email them a special offer that we have for the Pearl game. Right now, we can't do that."
What are some of the benefits to the fans themselves?
"They will be able to log into their account on our system and manage their own account. They will be able to look at their points in the Bulldog Club and look at their rank. That will allow them to figure out how much an increase in their donation will help them with their points and rank. If they need to change their email address or shipping address, they will be able to go into their account and update it themselves. And they will also be able to make their donations online. Being able to do so much themselves will be a very welcome change for them. That's something our fans have been telling us that they wanted to be able to do."
You mentioned that donors will be able to determine how to move up in the point rankings. How will that work?
"One of the main questions we get now from Bulldog Club members is what does my rank need to be to get lower level basketball seats or how much money do I have to give to be ranked among the top 500? Those are very easy calculations we can do on a calculator. That got us to thinking if it's that easy, then it shouldn't be a problem for a person to do it on the computer. So, we went to XOS and asked them if they could include a calculator similar to what you see on banking sites that would help answer those questions. They are working on that for us."
When will this system go live?
"If everything goes as planned, we are hoping to have it live and working completely for basketball season. This is a huge transition so we will need fans to be patient with us as we phase it in. There is really no time in the year when we can shut down our system completely. So, although we may have the redesigned web site and parts of the One Fan Profile available this summer, we won't be selling out of the system until basketball season."
Why did you decide to use XOS?
"What we liked was the fact that everything was in one location and that their system was very easy to navigate. When we saw the user interface and saw that it was, basically, a snapshot page that showed everything, including their pledge, how much they have paid, where their seats are located, how many tickets they have ordered, if they ordered season tickets, we liked that immediately. Then, when they showed us the One Fan profile where the fan can log in and see the same thing we can, we knew that was what we needed so that we could be more efficient.
"Once we decided that, we left it in the hands of (MSU Director of Athletics) Mr. (Larry) Templeton and (Associate A.D./Internal Operations) Duncan McKenzie to work through the contract. Larry was very supportive from the beginning. When we said it would help us, he was very helpful in getting it nailed down."
How many other colleges are using this system?
"We will be the first BCS school to use the entire package, top to bottom. They have well over 100 using their web tools and a number of schools using their ticket functionality. They also have a number of schools using their donor management, but they don't have any other BCS schools using their total software platform."
As far as buying and selling tickets among the people in your system, how will that work?
"This system will enable us to move to a bar coding system for our tickets. And we will have barcode scanners at the gates. When you bring your tickets, instead of tearing it we will scan the barcode. If you are unable to attend the game, you will be able to log into the system, inactivate the barcode on the ticket, transfer that ticket to somebody else by emailing the ticket to them. Then, they will be able to print it off at home with a new barcode."
How will people who want game tickets know that other people have them available? Will there be a centralized location that people can go to?
"We think so, but we are still working on that. And right now, (XOS) is still working on the design of the system based on what we want. But, they basically told us they will set it so that it does whatever we want it to do."
Will people still be able to call the Bulldog Club or ticket office and handle things the old fashion way instead of doing it through the internet?
"People will still be able to do that. And we love talking to those folks and dealing with them one on one."
How else will having such a use friendly system help the Bulldog Club personnel?
"It will allow us to get out more and visit more people. Plus, it will allow us to see when someone logged in late at night and made a pledge then. That will allow us to send a thank you note for making the pledge and thinking about us.
"And there are other things that we like as well. Let's say I see someone at a game. I'll be able to log in and post a message to that person via their account thanking them for being at the game. Then, when the person logs into their account they will see that message from me. And, if that person has a question, he can ask me online and I can respond to him through his account."
Where will the login location be?
"When you visit the main Mississippi State athletic website there will be a login location on it, just like you do with Maroon to the Max now. Once this is all in place, when you log into the front page login location you'll be logging into your entire account."
Internet security is always a concern. How secure will the site be?
"It is a completely secure system that requires a login and a password. It's no different than any other secure commercial site that you log into."
Ticket holders, Maroon to the Max subscribers and Bulldog Club members will be included among those in the system. Are there plans to, possibly, add the MSU Alumni Association to the software and even the MSU students?
"There won't be a direct connection right away because they are using a different type software, but we have talked with them in great detail about us providing them information about what people are doing with the athletic department. We hope that we would also have access to people that are not currently involved with us. And the MSU Foundation and MSU Alumni Association have been very helpful."
It really sounds like it's going to be a great system once it's in place.
"We are really excited about it. And we are very grateful it is taking place. It was great how all the different departments got together and gave them input. It really allowed us to iron out a lot of issues that could have popped up later. We are very thankful that Larry and Duncan were able to work it out so that the contract is now in place. They worked really hard to make sure this happened."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of Dawgs Bite: Powered by GenesPage.com, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by email at email@example.com.