Touring with Wireless

By Matt Hines  |  Posted 2006-03-17 Print this article Print

"Even though speech recognition has been around for quite a while, adoption hasnt been as fast as wed like, but thats also because its been far too complex and expensive for companies to take a chance and see how this impacts their business," said Ivey.

"Everyone has Web developers, who are much cheaper, and who are already writing HTML and XML; we told the PGA Tour that they didnt need any new skills to add to the enterprise, as we created the equivalent of dynamic Web applications that instead handle phone calls."

PGA Tour professional Jimmy Walker is on the comeback from a neck injury and who spends a lot of time sitting on airplanes.
As a result, traveling light is a top priority, said Walker, 27, who even goes so far as to prefer his Motorola Rokr phone for its audio capabilities as it saves him the trouble of carrying a separate MP3 player. Using the IVR collaboration system, Walker said hes able to stay better informed of his business using nothing more than the handheld and a notebook computer.

To read how IT keeps communications up and running for the National Football Leagues New England Patriots, click here. In mid-February, Walker boarded a flight to Los Angeles unsure whether or not he was heading to the Nissan Open as a top alternate, or already placed as a member of the field. When he landed on the West Coast and flipped on his handset the information was available immediately. He shot a 69 on the Riviera Country Club course that Sunday and finished one-under-par for the tournament, his best result of the year so far.

"Obviously with any new technology it takes some getting used to, but I trust it now and have used it quite a few times and had nothing but success with it," said Walker, who admitted having a slight advantage over other players in adopting the mobile applications since his father-in-law works for Motorola.

"The voice feature is really neat; most of these things sound so computerized but when you say your name or the tournaments name the voice on the other side talking back at you is real, which is nice," Walker said. "Its also easy to work with because it recognizes the kind of things you need to say to it and responds, rather than asking you to run through a number of menus."

While players arent allowed to talk on their phones while playing official rounds, Walker said he knows a number of other pros are using the mobile system to stay informed at most other times.

In addition to the mobile voice application, the golfers and other Tour employees have access to a network of online intranet and portal sites to help organize their work and share information, dubbed as TourLinks. Through the network of roughly 13 internal and external sites, players, tournament workers and other employees can attend to almost every element of their communications with the Tour, said Evans.

Ream more here about how the Major League Baseballs Boston Red Sox used IT to gain an edge during its 2004 championship drive. Evans said that the Tour traditionally has been conservative in terms of its IT strategy, and that he couldnt have imagined the whole collaboration enterprise working as well as it is now even two years ago. TourLinks currently also supports professionals playing on the Champions and Nationwide Tours, which are satellites of the PGA.

While it took a lot of custom coding and systems integration to make all the pieces fit together, the executive said that he feels the collaboration infrastructure will serve as a platform for other applications going forward, including a text messaging program the Tour is testing that could help keep players apprised of each others performances while on the course.

And if the online and mobile communications systems become too confusing for a player, the tools can be customized to fit, much like golf clubs, said Evans.

"The biggest challenges have been around educating and training all the people, and to get them to trust that when they hit enter or say yes, the registration they completed or commitment they made isnt going to get lost somewhere along the line," Evans said. "Being able to do that, which we have, and making sure that everyone is up to date with what we can offer them is one of our biggest jobs; and we think theres a lot of potential to do even more in the future."

Check out eWEEK.coms for more on IM and other collaboration technologies.


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