Questions For: Steve Jones & Jeremy DeSpain, CEO & COO, Explore Consulting

Steve Jones & Jeremy DeSpain on helping the NFL use the cloud in hopes of picking a superstar

 

March 19, 2012 – Viewers of the NFL Scouting Combine saw the future stars of football sprinting, jumping, and doing their best to impress the scouts and executives of the 32 NFL teams in attendance. Who they didn’t see were Steve Jones and Jeremy DeSpain. The partners at Explore Consulting were working behind the scenes at the combine to capture and distribute data and statistics about the hundreds of football players vying for a shot in professional football. Relying heavily on cloud computing technology, Explore has provided professional services for the combine for the past six years. Explore counts Microsoft and Nordstrom as clients.

 

How did you start Explore? Steve Jones: Jeremy and I were colleagues in Enterprise Developers leading up to Explore Consulting. Jeremy and I had a lot of the same philosophies on where technology was going, and we were big believers that the internet was highly under-utilized for business. We started the company just over 11 years ago. It was focused on taking business to the internet. Now we call it the cloud – back then that term wasn’t really around.

 

How’d you get the chance to work with NFL? JONES: We were approached six scouting seasons ago. Through some business relationships, we were afforded the opportunity to bid on that job, and we won. I think part of the reason we won was the innovative approach that we have towards taking it to the cloud, which has since been a really good decision for them. We took it off the old infrastructure where it was hard to share data, and moved it to more of a central location. Jeremy DeSpain: When we started Explore, we had a mission to have a referral from every customer. So we don’t do much advertising; all of our jobs are leads. The NFL was a referral from our work we did at NetSuite, and when we started the company our first (client) was Nordstrom. Our second was Microsoft. Those were referrals from work we had done prior to starting Explore. We kind of maintained that with high customer service.

 

What’s the benefit of using the cloud for your technology? JONES: Simply put, it makes data very accessible. In the old days, when you would deploy some software, everybody would get it installed with floppy disks onto their machines, and inevitably you’d run into a bug. You go, you make the fix, you burn a bunch more floppies to get them installed. When you’re putting applications in the cloud, if you discover that bug, (the fix is) immediately deployed, because you have access to all these business locations, so you’re maintaining one set of code instead of code on every machine. Given that, it becomes less important what kind of devices you’re running. DESPAIN: And that’s a real big benefit. In the past you had an army of system administrators, you have database administrators that administer this huge database, you have all this infrastructure that runs the technology of an organization. So what the cloud is doing is eliminating a lot of that. Organizations who are moving to the cloud, they don’t need those people. Really good system administrators and database administrators, they do technology for lots of organizations, instead of every organization needing their own. Organizations can run more lean.

 

How does something like this help with what the NFL is doing? JONES: The combine is a perfect example. It’s about 10 days for them, it’s just go-go-go, and so for them to try and maintain an infrastructure to support all the fairly complicated software that is going on … they’re able to just pull us in for the event, use us for the data, and then go back to the day-to-day scouting. DESPAIN: Simply put, it allows them to focus on football, and not on software or technology. They lean on Explore to provide that cloud for them, to turn up at the combine. The real advantage is they don’t have to worry about the IT and the infrastructure and the software, that sort of thing. And the data. They trust us as their data providers that we’re taking care of it.

 

Can you talk about the software you use to capture data for things like the 40-yard dash and the bench press? JONES: Basically the information is collected with different types of capture devices (such as cameras and timers). Once that event is completed, the 40 or the vertical jump, they’re able to submit that information, we collect it all in the cloud, and the combine staff is able to pull that information off. DESPAIN: One of the things that is unique about this software solution, though, is it doesn’t require an internet connection to be available — meaning they capture the data even offline, because when the 40’s going to happen, it’s going to happen, they’re not going to wait for internet connectivity.

 

Where do you see cloud technology five years in the future? JONES: A lot more prevalent, but the concept is going to stay the same — being web-based. The world is moving toward browser-based as opposed to having to install something specific to your business on a device. We’re losing that dependency — if you lose your laptop or lose your phone, it’s just a device. It makes a lot of sense, because if you’re like me and you lose your phone a few times a year, that’s OK. Most of your information is being stored up in the cloud. That’s the biggest benefit. DESPAIN: It’s so cost-effective, it’s so inexpensive to put data up in these hosting providers. I think with the social media players, you’ll be able to write your application in any language, whether it be PHP, Java or DotNet, you can deploy that code and it will translate it automatically for you. Different technologies will really come together, so that you’re not going to have to develop different code bases. I think that’s where that’s going to go.

 

Would it be safe to say that you are fairly big sports guys? JONES: That’s a safe assumption. We love our Seahawks. What we do most days is install accounting systems in the cloud. So when we get the opportunity to work on something a little sexier, it’s a lot of fun. And it’s good for our team as well, to step away from integrating data systems to get some data ready for NFL scouts.

 

About Explore Consulting

Based in Bellevue, Washington, Explore Consulting was founded in 2001 and is a professional services company dedicated to providing innovative and costeffective solutions for their customers’ database and IT systems needs. Having specialized in SaaS solutions for more than 11 years, Explore Consulting is the largest and most experienced NetSuite reseller and solution provider in the Northwestern United States. Whether you are looking for assistance with your NetSuite purchase and implementation or needing to integrate your NetSuite account to an external data source, Explore is your one stop NetSuite service provider. Explore Consulting is well-known as a leader in NetSuite customization, integration and extensibility, and was recently included on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing privately owned companies in the U.S. four years in a row as well as the Puget Sound Business Journal’s 100 Fastest Growing Private Companies. Explore has also been a 7-time NetSuite Star Performer and was recently named as 2011 NetSuite Partner of the Year, Americas. For more information, visitexploreconsulting.com or www.exploremobile.com.

 

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