IT Science Case Study: How Raw Engineering Helped the Miami HEAT

eWEEK IT SCIENCE CASE STUDY: A professional basketball team decided it had to take its mobile app up to a new level of functionality and user experience—under a crunchingly tight deadline.


Here is the latest article in an eWEEK feature series called IT Science, in which we look at what actually happens at the intersection of new-gen IT and legacy systems.

Unless it’s brand new and right off various assembly lines, servers, storage and networking inside every IT system can be considered “legacy.” This is because the iteration of both hardware and software products is speeding up all the time. It’s not unusual for an app-maker, for example, to update and/or patch for security purposes an application a few times a month, or even a week. Some apps are updated daily! Hardware moves a little slower, but manufacturing cycles are also speeding up.

These articles describe new-gen industry solutions. The idea is to look at real-world examples of how new-gen IT products and services are making a difference in production each day. Most of them are success stories, but there will also be others about projects that blew up. We’ll have IT integrators, system consultants, analysts and other experts helping us with these as needed.

Today’s Topic: Designing, building a one-stop-shop mobile appand quickly

The NBA’s Miami HEAT had a vision to take its mobile app to the next level. Known for its focus on fans, the team was eager to set a new benchmark in fan experience, and they wanted to do it quickly. Raw Engineering delivered one of the most sophisticated mobile apps in the NBA, creating a unique experience for each fan–whether located within AmericanAirlines Arena or following along from afar. Built on Raw Engineering's Digital Fan Experience Platform, the HEAT mobile app drives direct revenue, increases fan loyalty, unlocks season ticket membership benefits and enables seamless integrations.    

Name the problem to be solved:

Traditionally, sports teams have viewed their apps as compulsory sideshows to their primary business. However, the forward-thinking management team at the Miami HEAT / AmericanAirlines Arena was ready to revolutionize the fan experience with an innovative mobile strategy. They sought a mobile app experience that would meet fans where they were – whether in the arena, or across the country. Matthew Jafarian, Executive Vice President, Business Strategy, envisioned a mobile app that would serve as a one-stop-shop for entertainment, commerce and digital ticketing. The only catch? It needed to be ready for the start of the season, which was only four months away.

Describe the strategy that went into finding the solution:

Jafarian knew this project was no small feat. There was no room for error or delays. He needed a partner that had both a strong team and robust technology platform that would enable their mobile app to scale and iterate with their business needs. 

“Raw Engineering offers a powerful combination of mobile app development services and headless CMS platform under one roof. That, coupled with the team’s industry knowledge and strong client portfolio, made them the clear choice,” Jafarian said.

List the key components in the solution:

  • Integrated Technical Architecture
  • UX / UI Strategy & Design
  • Mobile Application Development
  • Contentstack Headless CMS Implementation
  • Microservices Integration

Describe how the deployment went, perhaps how long it took, and if it came off as planned:

“Using a microservices approach was a key factor in bringing our vision to life,” Jafarian said. “The backend work is hidden, offering seamless integrations and enabling our team to quickly and easily make updates. Now HEAT fans can access ticketing, loyalty, membership, and game content with just one login, providing a first-rate user experience.”

Raw Engineering’s integrated design, development, and research team conducted workshops and user tests to determine how to best address fan and season ticket member pain points and enhance the arena with a new physical/digital experience.

Raw Engineering brought the vision to life via its powerful Digital Fan Experience Platform, which enables the HEAT to future-proof its investment and prepare for future technology requirements.

Using a modern microservices approach, the Raw team focused on enabling APIs and integrations, rather than locking into a legacy platform. This strategy afforded the HEAT control over its app roadmap and enabled seamless integrations with third-party apps. 

For example, the HEAT quickly took advantage of Ticketmaster SafeTix immediately after it was released, and as a result is the first NBA or NHL arena to offer fans the ability to tap to enter for games or concerts.
The HEAT team sought a better understanding of their fan base and a more personalized user experience. This resulted in a complete overhaul of the HEAT’s legacy CMS. Raw Engineering implemented Contentstack, a headless CMS, to feed content to the app. This 24/7 engagement tool provided advanced personalization capabilities, allowing the HEAT marketing team to better utilize fan data to suggest content and providing the ability to segment push notifications with targeted business incentives.   

Raw Engineering completed the deployment in time for the new season. 

Describe the result, new efficiencies gained, and what was learned from the project:

The app has helped increase mobile ticket sales revenue by orders of magnitude by providing a frictionless experience and convenient cross-channel marketing opportunities. The HEAT reported a 220% increase in mobile ticketing.

Describe ROI, carbon footprint savings, and staff time savings, if any:

Data captured by the app is integrated in the HEAT’s CRM allowing the team to build organizational-wide insights and market effectively both in the app and across other HEAT channels. This has resulted in highly engaged fans; the app generates revenue every month in direct mobile transactions from ticket sales, retail merchandise, and access passes to premium spaces, a new feature released this year.

The mobile-only ticketing process has also reduced operating and hosting costs.

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