Taking Back IT

Nov 22 2011   11:29AM GMT

iPads in the NFL: Are you ready for some consumerization?

Colin Steele Colin Steele Profile: Colin Steele

NFL players love technology. For proof, just check out Chad Ochocinco’s 30,000 tweets or all the athletes who grew up playing as much football on the PlayStation as on the field.

This season, two teams are capitalizing. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Baltimore Ravens have purchased iPads for their players and coaches, and they’ve even built custom apps to store their playbooks and break down film of each week’s games. Players said the iPads make them more productive and invested in their jobs, especially when they’re on the go — which, of course, is the main selling point for the consumerization of IT in more traditional workplaces.

“Back in the day, I think probably the whole team had to sit down with a projector and a reel, and watch the film together,” Buccaneers safety Cody Grimm told the St. Petersburg Times back in August. “Now we all have our own iPad. Stuff that we used to come in here to see, we can sit on our couch at home and have access to it 24-7.”

The Ravens developed their iPad app over the course of a year and worked with Global Apptitude, a Baltimore-based application developer that focuses on building apps for sports teams. With traditional paper playbooks, there is always the risk that a player will lose them and they will fall into opponents’ hands. But the Ravens’ iPad app is password-protected, and the team can wipe each week’s playbook after the game ends.

“I guarantee that all teams are looking how to do this, and a few years from now, everyone is going to have something like this, whether it’s an iPad or some other device,” Nick Fusee, Baltimore’s IT director, told Ravens.com.

What the Bucs and Ravens are doing are great examples of how organizations can embrace (but still control) consumer technology in the workplace. They didn’t just say, “Hey team, here’s an iPad for everybody! Enjoy!” They had an idea, they planned to make sure it would meet their needs, and they decided it would be worth the investment.

So far, it has been — to a point. At 7-3, the Ravens are tied for the best record in the AFC, but the Bucs have lost four games in a row. In football, as in any other job, technology can only take you so far.

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