REAL MADRID IT Manager José Manuel Peña Arroyo runs a tight ship for the Spanish soccer team. How does he do it? According to Arroyo, meeting the demands of a world-class soccer organization requires understanding the business needs. “(My) two passions merge – sport and technology, so that makes it very easy working in this club.”
As a Telecommunications Engineer, Arroyo began his career as a technological consultant for 3 years before to joining the world of professional sports in 1999 as IT Manager for Real Madrid. With a results-oriented discipline, Arroyo applies his vision to the business operations, innovation. Managing the operation of the club in technology and many special projects, some of our Real Madrid’s main responsibilities include the selection of different technologies and business partners.
The information technology division of Real Madrid has come a long way since Arroyo joined the team over 2 decades ago. “In 1999 when I joined, we were two people who initiated a project with the other areas of the club, with a clear vision, a plan of modernizing the organization at all levels. Technologically (there was) only one server, and a few computers in a network, we could say there were no IT department. We currently have about 25 people in the department, which can give you an idea of evolution we have had over the years. We are in charge of security, communications, software engineering, audiovisuals, helps desk systems, administration systems, etc.”
Arroyo has overseen many technological advancements in his time at Real Madrid, two of which were to advance both the spectator experience as well as the club’s online presence. “The access control system at the stadium is a system that was completely innovative and that remains a reference for many clubs, and organizations worldwide to visit us often. In 2009 we hosted the UEFA Champions League Final, and it was a total success, we received official recognition from UEFA. Furthermore, all development in the online world since the beginning in 2000 with the creation of the first site on the Internet, to nowadays with the emergence of social networks, is another of the most significant examples of technological advancements.”
The Real Madrid IT division are continuously advancing the club to the forefront of sports technology and other sports organizations. “In relation to the activity at the stadium, no doubt the converged network architecture we have in the stadium, we can have many services running on the network with total reliability and security, this allows us to offer the best sports experience to our viewers in the safest way.” explains Arroyo. “Control access with biometrics built in the turnstile, stadium audio with Cobra Net standard, IP telephony communication with the doors, real-time management of documents entering the stadium, digital radio network with TETRA standard implemented, wireless network for media services, network support for sports broadcasting, etc., are some innovations that we can run every day in the our stadium. On the sporting side, our recording systems, video post processing, and physical, tactical and technical system reporting, help our coaches to improve and prepare every game with the biggest and best information available.”
Technological advancements, however, don’t come with some challenges. Arroyo points out some which are common within any IT environment. “I think the key is to know very well the industry where you are working and what are the business needs. If you are able to apply technology to specific targets, you can achieve great challenges. And overcome many difficulties. Change management is another key tool to overcome many challenges.” Finding a balance between day-to-day IT operations and constant evolving expectations, also proves challenging. “In the video world, (IT) has struggled to find a standard solution to serve the entire (organization), as each coach has their own software and working methods, and it becomes very difficult to adapt the habits of people to use certain technologies. Sometimes there are budget constraints that make us select or exclude certain technologies, it is difficult to fight against that, you have to be smart and invest the funds in what really is most needed and meets the objectives pursued.”
The Real Madrid Information Technology Division provides services to the club that extend far from the playing field. “The IT division is responsible not only for projects related to the user experience and the stadium, we service all areas of business, and that includes projects to support our stores, back office packages to support departments such as financial or human resources, support in marketing strategy solutions.” explains Arroyo. “We are a cross division in the club organization, and we try to respond every challenge that we have in front of us.”
So what does Arroyo have planned for Real Madrid in 2011? “We have different plans for 2011, perhaps the most exciting to name a few are, the evolution of the stadium’s control center, the implementation of a comprehensive management system fan, a CRM but with our fan base, expanding wireless services in the stadium to reach our viewers the day of the game, with new value added services, such as exclusive Info channel, repeats, etc., is to extend the experience of the scoreboard to mobile phones of each viewer the stadium.”
Originally published in Sports Activated magazine:
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