Oakland A's Call Up NetSuite For CRM, Boston Red Sox Weigh Options

The A's, which lead the American League western division as of today, can use NetSuite to automate their order processing and CRM tasks. Netsuite, the San Mateo, Calif., company formerly known as NetLedger, says its product's ability to link to back-end systems will also make it easier for the A's to tap into Major League Baseball and tickets.com systems.

The Oakland franchise may be the first major league team to use a hosted back-office system, said NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson, who's a huge A's fan and a season ticketholder. The Oakland A's could not be reached for comment.

NetSuite competes with Salesforce.com and Salesnet in the hotly contested hosted CRM space, but it also fields ERP and other back-office capabilities.

The A's are not the only baseball franchise trying to sort out customer-service and back-office automation. The Boston Red Sox are evaluating CRM systems and have looked at NetSuite, as well as Microsoft CRM and Onyx, according to Red Sox IT director Steve Conley.

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One of the big decisions is whether to go with hosted vs. on-premises software, Conley said. It is critical that whatever the choice, the system work with what is often a mixed-bag of current databases and other systems.

Conley wants to be careful evaluating the task at hand up front. The question is whether to limit the first application to something small to test the concept or to roll it out widely, he noted.

"A lot of the horror stories you heard about bad CRM implementations resulted from poor planning," he said.

The San Diego Padres reportedly blazed the trail with CRM automation, implementing a CRM program in 1995 and using it to drive a fan loyalty program. Some Red Sox brass, including part-owner Tom Werner, migrated to Boston from San Diego three years ago, bringing some of their IT consultants with them.

NetSuite, unlike some hosting players, encourages channel participation in sales. LS Technology, a San Clemente, Calif.-based CRM and ERP solution provider, has nearly 10 NetSuite deals pending, according to LS president Mick Gallagher. VARs get margin on ongoing implementations of NetSuite once the sale is made.