The New England Patriots have climbed to the top of the National Football League and remained there through dedication to the concept of team.
Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick is famous for using his entire roster in every game, including calling on players such as Troy Brown and Mike Vrabel to take on difficult roles outside their specialties.
The teams owner, Kraft Group Ltd., takes a similar approach, calling on Vice President of IT Pat Curley to do many things well. In addition to supporting the football teams IT needs, the 30-year IT veteran quarterbacks the infrastructure for the worldwide operations of Kraft Group, which, with some 800 employees, runs several paper-industry businesses, Gillette Stadium and the New England Revolution professional soccer team, as well as the Patriots.
"There are the box company, the paper company, event management and concessions. All are different," said Curley. Her response, in keeping with the Patriots ethos, is a flexible one. "We have a decentralized infrastructure, and the IT staff is both centralized and decentralized," she said. "The things that are centralized are the WAN, security and telephony. The applications, however, remain unique for each business."
By keeping IT operations running smoothly across the businesses, Curley can turn to the most distinctive demand of her position—supporting Gillette Stadium and the Patriots on game days. Each home game sees the influx of hundreds of employees who work only on game days at concession stands and luxury boxes or in cleanup.
"People dont realize how much is involved. We need to know who is here and when," said Curley. For the purposes of efficiency and security, tracking these people and their identities, uniforms, and the times at which they arrive and depart is critical.
To do the job Curley and her staff issued workers bar-coded ID cards and custom-built an application to track them. "The application was conceived by security folks and operations people here. It was a large effort by a number of people," said Curley, adding, "We believe we have the best application in the business."
Game days entail support for the Patriots and the visiting team, as well as for the media, including network television and radio broadcasts.
Curley deploys one person on each sideline to support the coaches headsets and one person to support the 25 extra phone lines the networks require for each game they broadcast.
Two other IT staffers are available for any contingencies. In addition, the print media and photographers require phone lines of their own, as do the field doctors.
It adds up to as many as 150 connections per game.
Curley is looking into wireless hot-spot technology, seeking a more flexible way to support media needs.
As with many football teams, the Patriots use Avid Sports LLCs system from Pinnacle Systems Inc. to record and track games on video. "As much as can be obtained from the use of technology, our coaching staff does. The coaching staff is quite savvy," said Curley.
Security concerns are never far from her mind, however.
"We dont put that [game video] on the Internet, however," she said.
"When we bought the Avid system in 2000, the ILoveYou virus was fresh in everyones mind."
The National Football League limits technology use to level the playing field among franchises.
For example, teams cannot use video in the locker room during halftime. In another example, all NFL teams are required to shoot video of each home game from both the sideline and end line and send copies of the video to their next two opponents.