If you attended this same music festival a few years ago, the queues for beer and food stretched for half a football field and the bathroom lines weren’t much better. The Wi-Fi was spotty at best, making it hard to communicate with your group. Even the setup of the stages seemed slipshod, with masses of people heading in opposite directions and causing endless collisions and confusion.
This year, everything feels different. The lines are shorter. The Wi-Fi is strong and reliable. The schedule makes sense. It might be the best festival you’ve ever been to.
Only, it’s not more space or fewer people that’s making the venue function better. It’s better data—lots of it.
“What we’re doing is taking all this information from the various transactions and using that to design a better customer experience,” says Miguel Borbolla, IT director for OCESA, Latin America’s biggest live-entertainment company. “We want people to move more safely, get food and drinks more easily and share their experience, so they can have a great time. That’s what they came to do.”
First things first
Given OCESA’s sheer size and scope—it curates everything from concerts and festivals to theater productions and sporting events (including the F1 Mexico GP)—the chance to drive the company’s data transformation was one Borbolla quickly embraced upon joining the company in 2017.
In order to create a stronger IT posture, Borbolla first bolstered the company’s backbone by upgrading its existing enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform.
According to Borbolla, the goal of the overhaul is twofold: to automate some of the company’s back-end processes—particularly those relating to accounting—while making it easier for him and his team to gather and access customer data.
“When you simplify more redundant processes, that lets you focus on the things that really bring change to the company,” says Borbolla, who, during his previous position as IT manager for Cinépolis, orchestrated an ERP upgrade across 12 different countries in the Americas, Asia and Europe. “You don’t have to worry about gathering information. Instead, you figure out what that information means.”
Experience of a lifetime
What that data increasingly shows is that customers are looking for a more seamless event experience—one that, in Borbolla’s words, gives them “more bang for their buck.”
One amenity that Borbolla and his team are developing is a bracelet that would allow users to pay for festival fare—access, food, drinks, souvenirs and the like—by scanning an electronic code linked to an attendee account (which can be added to at any time).
That, he says, would eliminate the need for concession staff to make change, while drastically reducing customer wait times. In addition, by downloading an event-specific app, customers can receive offers exclusive to certain vendors. For example, if a beer kiosk isn’t selling as much beer as it predicted, the company might offer a 50 percent discount for a time.
“The challenge we face is, how do we reach our customers in a way that gives them a great experience?” Borbolla says. “The more we understand what customers do at these events, the better those interactions will be.”
Behind the scenes
Festival goers aren’t the only ones clamoring for more bells and whistles, however. For artists and performers, the ability to communicate—with stagehands and event personnel alike—is paramount.
These days, no big-name act is complete without at least one enormous LED screen, enabling artists to toggle between live shots of the show and all manner of graphics, videos and other content. And it’s not uncommon for performers to need to download content (often many gigabytes worth) in real time. In some cases, they’ll even Skype with other artists halfway around the world or broadcast live in real-time for audiences in different distribution channels.
To that end, Borbolla and his team are working with a handful of high-profile vendors to ensure that every venue has a robust (and reliable) Wi-Fi network capable of accommodating not just a few hundred artists, but thousands of attendees as well.
Work and play
While his current slate of projects is plenty to keep him busy, Borbolla says he and his team will always have one eye on the next big thing. Machine learning, artificial intelligence, the internet of things: Borbolla sees all of them playing a role going forward. Particularly in helping gain more insights into things like purchasing trends, music and events preferences, and distinguishing between ticket purchaser and event attendee decision drivers. All with the aim of ensuring patrons enjoy a “great and gratifying experience,” beginning when they first purchase a ticket to the event.
Indeed, one can’t help but think that OCESA’s patrons aren’t the only ones being entertained.
“What I love about this role is how fun it is. Even if you have the same festival year over year, it’s never exactly the same from one year to the next,” Borbolla says. “There are different challenges, different layouts, different activities, different vendors, sponsors and artists. It’s constantly evolving. Our job is to make sure it’s evolving the right way—in a way that improves peoples’ experience. You never have a second chance to make a great first impression.”
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