U.S. Tennis Association CIO on improving fan experience at U.S. Open

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In this interview, United States Tennis Association CIO Larry Bonfante explains how he's helping the association deepen fan engagement through a robust digital platform. 

Watch the video or read the transcript to learn how Bonfante is using technology to help the association's mission of driving tennis participation in the United States. 

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The Enterprisers Project (TEP): What is your biggest passion and what is a challenge you see moving forward?

Larry Bonfante: I am passionate about the people that I lead in terms of helping them to broaden their experience to really grow their careers and really create contributions, feel good about what they are doing. And I am passionate about the mission of the association to really help in terms of driving tennis participation in the United States and helping people have healthier lifestyles.

We are also making a huge investment in our digital strategy and our digital properties. We realize that moving forward, like most membership organizations, that really deepening engagement is going to be critical for us. And the best way to deepen that engagement is through a very robust digital platform.

TEP: How are you using technology to enhance the fan experience?

Bonfante: The Billy Jean King National Tennis Center is where we hold the U.S. Open every year, and we are making huge overhauls to that facility. It is also going to be a state-of-the-art fan experience there. Technology is going to be part of everything, from the Wi-Fi experience to a beaconing experience, so we know when you come onsite, what you are doing onsite, how we can offer you opportunities and advantages and experiences that are meaningful to you based upon your prior history with the USTA and U.S. Open. So everything that touches you from the time when you go online to buy a ticket, to when you leave the event, is going to be part of a digital experience and part of an infrastructure fabric that we are building out at the National Tennis Center.

TEP: How often are you connecting with external customers?

Bonfante: We are constantly engaging with the consumers of our products. When we developed our first mobile app, we were out there working with the tennis players in our league program to understand what they need, what would make their experience better. And we built our first app based upon that feedback. At the U.S. Open, my people set up membership appreciation day, greeting our members, understanding what our member's concerns are, what excites them about being members of USTA so they have a real perspective of what is driving the experience for our consumers, so we can put solutions in place to help drive those experiences.

TEP: How are you connecting to the business?

Bonfante: So what we do is a couple of things, first of all, every month I send out a quick update that provides a business perspective on the investments that are being made in technology and how those investments are driving business outcomes so that people understand in their own terms what matters to them, how we are actually driving the mission of the association. We get in front of our board and our leadership at least a couple of times a year and do a state of the union with them, explaining the things that we are doing and the outcomes we are driving and how we compare and contrast to best-in-class companies in the industry. We have also done things like trade shows where people can come and kick the tires on new solutions and new applications and it's a fun way, but it's a great way to get them exposed to how technology is making a difference.

We've actually had some of our clients do a video for us by explaining how the work that we did in IT drove the entire operational experience of running the U.S. Open and how it made their experience a deeper, richer one not just for themselves operationally, but for the fans, the patrons and the sponsors. So we do everything we possibly can to get in front of people and have our key stakeholders get in front of people to preach the gospel of what technology is doing to drive business outcomes.

Larry Bonfante is the CIO of the United States Tennis Association and an executive coach at CIO Bench Coach. As an award-winning CIO, Bonfante's mission is to help develop world-class technology leaders and teams who enable their organizations to deliver outstanding business results. Bonfante has been recognized as a leader within the industry having been nominated for the CIO Hall of Fame in 2013, receiving the 2011 CIO 100 Award and the 2009 Premier 100 IT Leaders Award.

Nano Serwich is Editor of The Enterprisers Project and Global Awareness Content Manager at Red Hat.