Fast Company

NBA Digital’s GM Gives Advice on Utilizing New Technology

In this Brand Innovator Spotlight, Bryan Perez shares his team’s process on applying and measuring new applications including their recent partnership with iPad.

Bryan PerezBryan Perez is SVP and GM for NBA Digital, the NBA's extensive cross-platform portfolio of digital assets jointly managed by the NBA and Turner Sports. This includes NBA TV, NBA.com, NBA LEAGUE PASS, NBA LEAGUE PASS Broadband, NBA Mobile, NBADLEAGUE.com, and WNBA.com. Perez oversees all aspects of the portfolio including programming, operations, editorial, ecommerce and marketing.

Brandon Gutman: What is the initial step you take when utilizing new technology?

Bryan Perez: NBA Digital’s mantra is to provide fans with the content they want, when and where they want it, so we always start by asking: how will this enhance the fan’s experience, what are their needs? Where do they want content? Once we answer these questions we can determine our plan. There are a lot of opportunities that may seem cool, but if there is no use for it or it does not solve a need it won’t go anywhere.

When developing new content or testing new applications, how do you decide where to start? How do you decide the best approach?

You can’t chase everything and expect to really break through often – you risk stretching your resources too thin or sending confusing messages to your team and the marketplace. It is important to focus on long-term potential and prioritize accordingly, even though things will often look small when they start. Innovation is just as much about discipline as it is about creative. There are times when the “don’t do list” is more important than the “to do list” because you want to make sure you can give the “to do’s” your best effort.

NBA Digital recently launched Game Time: Courtside for the iPad. What was the strategy behind working with this new technology?

We saw developing something on the iPad as an opportunity to delve into a new category. We see the iPad and tablet computing in general as more about engagement than convenience. So rather than take our existing Game Time mobile app and scale it up for a larger screen size, we wanted to provide a more immersive and interactive experience. The idea for Game Time: Courtside was to create the perfect companion for the fan watching the playoffs on TV, providing access to all the info our courtside TV analysts have (quite literally) at their fingertips when they try to tell the story of the game. Who is hot, where are the points coming from, what is happening in key head to head matchups, etc?

With so many innovative applications constantly brewing, what is your philosophy for managing your teams?

I try to give my teams plenty of room for creative freedom and let them act as CEOs of their own project. You have to trust and challenge your talented people to take ownership. My job is to work at least 12 -24 months ahead of the staff. Where should we be in two years, and why? We then plant those stakes in the ground, give them the necessary resources for success and constantly clear roadblocks to execution.

How are you establishing benchmarks?

It can be difficult to set hard targets when you are breaking new ground, but it is important to always establish measurement – what are we going to measure? We don’t always expect that “X” will happen or consider things a failure if they don’t hit our metrics. Failure is when you don’t know why something did well or poorly. In the early stages of innovation, learning is key.

What is your secret to remaining innovative?

Having fun! Innovation is exciting; it’s about creating something new, delighting and surprising customers. The work might not always be easy, but the idea is to create a smile on a customers face and it’s always better if you have one too.

Brandon Gutman is a founder of FOCi Group, a Digital Management Consultancy building and optimizing digital practices for the Fortune 500 community. Brandon and FOCi Group are helping brand innovators utilize emerging technology and new media in order to achieve ultimate performance. Follow Brandon on Twitter at http://twitter.com/brandongutman.

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