IBM Apps Help MLB Play Ball

World Classic taps collaboration tools from IBM

It takes teamwork to hit a grand slam, and nobody knows that better than Major League Baseball.

Starting work after the end of the 2005 World Series in October, MLBs IT department had less than six months to design, create and launch a sophisticated network of databases, Web sites and mobile applications that would serve as a central resource for the 16 international teams participating in the inaugural World Baseball Classic tournament.

Using IBM software that included its Workplace collaboration applications for enterprise content management, document sharing and Web portal development, the first WBC-related operations were up and running in less than a month, thanks in large part to the fact that the simple tools could be used by even the IT unsavvy—a true team effort, in other words.

Even constituents unfamiliar with IT-centric operations began using the system heavily. Teams created their own logistics and marketing plans, finalized their player rosters, and provided internal updates on the games.

Neil Boland, a vice president with New York-based E2 Consulting Group, helped manage the WBC collaboration effort. He said that sourcing multiple integrated applications from a single vendor was one of the biggest payouts of selecting IBM, saving the company lengthy development work.

"People using this system werent developers for the most part, and thats part of the reason it worked so well," said Mike Morris, director of software development at MLB, in New York. "When you have something that almost anyone can figure out how to work with, you can easily find a lot of other business uses for this type of technology."

A big issue shadowing the WBC has been the health of MLB players participating in the showcase event. Some team owners demanded almost constant updates on players status. To appease them, MLB built a system that e-mailed updates from the WBC back to the MLB teams on an almost-real-time basis as players trained, said Morris.

A wireless system for the tournament officials was another necessity. Event management teams—including security, transportation, hospitality and medical staff—used Sprint Nextel smart phones for everything from voice communications and e-mail to snapping and distributing photographs of media members for credentials.

With Japan defeating Cuba in the WBC final on March 20, MLB is getting ready for its regular season. However, some of the world tournament technology will segue into the MLBs regular season. For example, MLB umpires will use the WBC system that distributed information on player health to share information on teams, players and game incidents.