Apple iPads now give the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority personnel access to real-time information previously carried around in hefty paper binders that quickly became outdated. That helps them address exhibitor and show management requests more quickly and streamlines guest services functions.
Five years ago, the MCCA laid the groundwork for its innovative mobile solution through a $9 million investment in an event management system called ShowBiz.
ShowBiz is a custom, open-source software platform developed for MCCA by strategic IT partner Optaros, after the MCCA IT team determined that existing off-the-shelf event management applications fell short of their needs.
The suite of administrative applications closely supports MCCA's business processes. This new system allowed the MCCA to consolidate 36 separate business processes for running shows down to 13.
"We made this investment because we wanted a platform that enabled the delivery of service excellence that no off-the-shelf products could provide," said Mark Michaud, the MCCA’s senior IT director.
He added, "That foundation allows us to take a 'plug and play' approach to adding functionality and capabilities."
ShowBiz's construction made it relatively simple for the MCCA to extend functions to Apple iPads and iPhones with a mobile ecosystem they call MoCCA.
MCCA studied BlackBerrys and Android for its applications prior to settling on Apple iOS because it had the simplest interface and because applications could be made available on iPhones used by the MCCA show service teams and on iPads used by salespeople and event managers. Service personnel use a pool of devices that can be checked-in and checked-out during a given shift.
Mobile devices are being rolled out to the authority's entire organization.
For example, the MCCA sales team can use MoCCA to gather and save information during discussions while walking around the MCCA’s facilities or they can be used to refer to notes or browse floors plans of exhibit space.
MCCA also built an app specifically for the Guest Services Associates who are stationed throughout the facilities greeting and helping attendees. The app is loaded with up-to-date information on area restaurants, bus schedules, what’s happening in the city and much more.
The MCCA also uses MoCCA to gather real-time feedback from attendees during shows, which has increased survey response rates by anywhere from 92 percent to 318 percent, depending on the show.
Future enhancements to ShowBiz and MoCCA include features that will allow MCCA service personnel to fulfill orders and requests directly from conference rooms or from the show floor, without requiring exhibitors to send someone to the event management office.
The ShowBiz mobile suite will also be extended with communications applications. For example, the authority's services team will be alerted about the arrival of a new order. In addition, MCCA is integrating social media channels, such as Twitter so that it can keep tabs on comments that attendees and exhibitors make during events.