SaaS for Boston Celtics at #e2conf
If you’re thinking that Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions are primarily for information economy companies, there’s a business model in Boston based on men throwing and bouncing a ball that disagrees. As Jay Wessel, VP of Technology at the Boston Celtics, told a session at the E2 conference in his team’s city on Wednesday: it’s all about simplification, reliability and cost.

Wessel, who heads a tiny  three person IT department at the famed franchise, said that “just about anything” is a candidate for SaaS, including solutions that are “too complex to implement” locally or are mission critical.


He broadly defined SaaS as the being “the application delivered,” while Cloud is the infrastructure and platform that can burst to higher capacities as needed. The question of private, virtual private, hybrid or public was less interesting to him, although it is clear he leans towards public SaaS, since it is the cleanest way for a small IT department to deliver services with the least headache and the most flexibility.

His real world examples included the use of email/spam security via Mimecast, a move the Celtics made about six years ago. As a result, his email flow diagram was reduced from about a dozen squares that included three layers of spam filters, to just an email flow from Mimecast to his Exchange Server. That allowed his operation to reduce hardware (a physical server and an appliance), reduce admin time, reduce costs -- and users were happier. What’s not to like?

Basketball assistant coaches, like coaches everywhere, love to draw plays with x’s, o’s and arrows. In the old days of a few years ago, Wessel recalled, there was an old 16-bit Windows app that “sometimes ran” on an XP, although it frequently crashed. That led to what appeared to be a retreat -- hand drawings, scanned and emailed or faxed, followed by coaches struggling with Visio.

Fast for B-Ball Video

Then came Fast, a company looking to solve this problem for coaches. While its FastDraw and FastScout apps are downloaded and used locally, their files are synced with others in the cloud. One could debate if this is truly a SaaS-app, but the coaches can easily download the app when needed via a single link, and the syncing of files means their lives are that much easier.

A better case example is Hudl, a service that enables cloud-based distribution and viewing of game videos. Once upon a time, these were films and, more recently, they were videos that had to be edited and then written and distributed as DVDs. Except coaches and players in hotels don’t always have access to DVD players, although they did have their iPads with them.

Celtics SaaS e2conf

Watching the game at #e2conf

Only One Thing

Hudl sounds like one of the great all-time bargains. The Celtics use it all the time and have unlimited storage, for about US$ 3000 annually, and even cash-starved high school teams can use the service for a few hundred dollars annually. And then there’s the invaluable asset of virtually nothing for the Celtics’ IT department to do.

When Hudl came to Boston and presented their service, Wessel said, he immediately said to them, “I’m going to write you a P.O. right now.” And, he added, that was the last time he had to do anything to support video distribution; the coaches took it from there.

In response to a question, Wessel said there are a few things he might not want to store in SaaS, like a proprietary SQL database the company has with statistical information about its games. “We kind of think we should keep that one close,” he said, adding that it “may be the only thing” that will not switch over to SaaS. 

Title image courtesy of Vasilyev Alexandr (Shutterstock)