Soccer team in a huddle

Fans Are the Winners as FC Bayern Goes Digital

September 1, 2016 by Andreas Schmitz 85

August 2016 was a momentous month for FC Bayern Munich. Not only did the club start out on a new Bundesliga soccer season, but its “Digital 4.0” project also took it on a journey into a new era of digital IT where the focus is on the fans.

FC Bayern Munich received a loud wake-up call after Germany’s national soccer team won the FIFA World Cup in Brazil two years ago. Mario Götze, FC Bayern’s former key striker, scored the winning goal in the final against Argentina. Fans stormed the club’s online shop. Instead of the usual average of 90,000 dialog steps per day, the system was suddenly faced with ten times that number in a single hour. It simply couldn’t cope.

“The system was down for six hours,” recalls Michael Fichtner, head of IT at FC Bayern. That’s six hours in which not a single sale of the number 19 shirt (Götze’s), an FC Bayern scarf, or FC Bayern bed linen could be processed. In other words, it was a complete disaster.

FCB Goes Digital: Big Bang in August

“That was one of the triggers for us to overhaul our IT setup,” says Fichtner looking back. A great deal has been done over the last two and a half years to avoid similar disasters happening again in the future. FC Bayern began deploying SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud and SAP CRM at the end of 2014. And when a new data center went live at the Allianz Arena in July 2016, the stage was set for FC Bayern to reduce its 52 third-party systems down to three, to switch its online shop over to SAP Hybris, and to begin using the SAP HANA Cloud Platform to accommodate last-minute and spontaneous business needs.

The club succeeded in putting its new strategy in place before the start of the new Bundesliga season. “All our external communications and everything that relates to the fan base is now controlled in our own data center; everything else is in the SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud – including the usual ERP functions such as finance and marketing.”

FC Bayern’s website, online shop, member and fan club management, prize competitions, FC Bayern.tv, and the myFCB personalized platform all run on premise in the club’s data center. “We’ve given our website a completely new look,” says Fichtner, whose mission was to end the club’s dependency on 52 third-party systems (and on a similar number of service providers) and to give it complete control over its data and processes at all times. “Our aim was to be able to respond to our fans’ needs at all times and in all situations,” says Fichtner.

CRM and the “Golden Customer”: Fans at the Heart of “Digital 4.0”

Fichtner’s vision is to create an “end-to-end customer experience” based on the concept of what he calls the “golden customer”. Fan data from every single channel ‒ whether it’s from the “KidsClub” page for young fans, the bricks-and-mortar fan stores, the online shop, or season ticket holders ‒ converges in one place, SAP CRM. The ability to respond quickly and accurately to fans’ needs, and to engage with them personally and contextually, is pivotal to FC Bayern’s strategy.

“We know our fans and we know what they need; we respond directly; and we bring them personalized and context-specific content,” explains Fichtner. For example, if a mother buys her son a Thomas Müller team jersey, the system will regularly supply information that might be of interest to that customer – and even send birthday wishes.

Thanks to the IT transformation, the systems at FC Bayern are also equipped to conduct “social listening”, meaning that the club can identify dissatisfied customers and contact them to try and solve their pain points. So, if someone complains on social media that he or she ordered a match ticket and team jersey and that the shirt still hasn’t arrived just days before the game, FC Bayern personnel can step in to help ‒ by arranging, say, for the team jersey to be ready for pick-up directly at the stadium. Fichtner calls this “responding in context”. He monitors data storage in the SAP systems and sees to it personally that the appropriate JavaScript and HTML5 coding is added to close any gaps in the business logic and ensure full integration.

“It is crucial for fan data to be integrated into SAP CRM,” explains Michael Thron, who is CEO at SAP partner objective partner AG, which is supporting FC Bayern on the technical side of its “Digital 4.0” implementation.

Cloud Platform Names “Man of the Match” and “Goal of the Month”

Thanks to another new feature (also implemented by objective partner AG), Bayern Munich was able to name the fans’ “man of the match” during the team’s first home game of the season against Werder Bremen. In a matter of minutes, votes placed by tens of thousands of spectators in the stadium were analyzed to arrive at the fans’ choice for this coveted award. As this example shows, SAP HANA Cloud Platform gives FC Bayern the flexibility to offer ad-hoc activities like quick polls and prize competitions with what Fichtner describes as “almost boundless scalability”. And while the cloud platform pulls customer data from SAP CRM, the survey functions themselves run in the cloud.

During a test project conducted in mid July, more than 40,000 fans entered an online prize competition in the space of just a few hours. The lucky winner scooped a prize of a trip to the United States with the FC Bayern team. And the good news for FC Bayern was that the systems handled the increased traffic load with ease. If all goes to plan, the club should – by the end of September ‒ be able to use the same cloud platform technology for an online goal-of-the-month vote. The prospects look good: After all, the proof of concept is complete and the recent prize competition is ample evidence of its feasibility.

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