Case Study

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From Custom Solutions to Products and Platforms: The Boston Marathon modernizes with Salesforce and Chargent

The BAA, home of the Boston Marathon, worked with Attain to move from an in-house solution to Salesforce and Chargent. Chris Pifer walks us through how they improved processes keeping them lean and focused on the runners. #salesforce #payments

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Chris Pifer, Principal Salesforce Consultant, Attain

CHRIS PIFER: So, the title of this is “From Custom Solutions to Products and Platforms,” and that was really a fundamental piece of the change that the Boston Athletic Association (BAA), who put put on the Boston Marathon and other races, went through with the project that we did with them.

So, when people think about the Boston Marathon, it’s the world’s oldest annual marathon. It’s the sixth largest marathon in the world. It’s got 30,000 participants from 100 countries. Their charity program raises $36 million for every year. They manage 10,000 volunteers over race weekend for the marathon. They're a global organization, globally recognized.

And when we started looking at and imagining what it would look like to implement Salesforce for the Boston Marathon, we’re looking at things like when race registration opens, thousands of people are sitting on the form ready to, you know, these are people who want to be first. It doesn't matter when you finish your registration, they want to be the first one to submit their registration. For them, participant experience is paramount.

Now, there's this whole other picture of the Boston Marathon that I think often isn't told that I think is really amazing, and that is the fact that they're a small nonprofit. They're a 30-person nonprofit.

Most of the systems they were working with when we started were designed in the ‘90s. They were based in Microsoft Access in ColdFusion. Access 2000. All the technology was handled by two outside consultants. They were small, independent consulting firms.

And the BAA had in their legacy system, you know, Salesforce talks about the 360-degree view of the constituent. They had the six-degree view of their constituent. Every year, they would clone the database and start fresh, so they had 60 Access databases that we were consolidating. Only through anecdotes did they know somebody was a volunteer, an athlete, a VIP, a member of the media, all at once.

And just like many small nonprofits or many other organizations, when in doubt they would defer to email or Excel, or just workarounds when they couldn't get the system to do what they needed to do.

This is from my notes, actually, in Discovery. “The limits of the tools they were using became the limits of the organization.” As a consulting partner, we came in to look at this. And we, as I said, we were starting with this big vision of, and we started with a very complex model for how we were going to handle the requirements.

And then realizing this is a small nonprofit changed the mindset entirely. Focus on core, standard Salesforce functionality, fill in key gaps wherever possible with AppExchange solutions, so Chargent was a critical piece, and then glue it together with declarative tools. We just really needed to expand the user interface of Salesforce.

And two examples here that I can share, this first one is a bulk registration approval utility. So, when you register for the marathon you fill out the form, and your card is authorized but not charged, because the marathon has to verify that you actually ran a qualifying race with a qualifying time within the last two years.

So, they authorize the card, and that's run through Chargent. And then after they’ve gone through the necessary verifications, need to charge 2,000, 4,000 cards in bulk all at once. And so, we’ve wrote against the Chargent API, and also against the Salesforce reporting API.

So, they write a Salesforce report, and this dropdown at the top is a list of Salesforce reports in a particular folder. They pick the report they want to charge, click “approve registrations,” and it goes through and it charges all the registrations in that report.

Something else that I'll mention quickly about the challenges with the BAA, the unique challenges they face, if you look at the people who typically win the marathon, they're not from the United States. They're often from Kenya, or from . . . They're not from countries that participate in the credit card address verification system (AVS).

We needed to go through the process of figuring out, and we actually worked really closely with Chargent on getting, places where when a billing address is in the United States, run address verification against it.

When a billing address is not inside the United States, just give us back the result. Their fraud numbers are so low because you have to have run a qualifying marathon in order to get in. It’s not a typical fraud situation, and instead it’s really like, user experience has to be paramount.

So, that's just a quick snapshot of the build that we did with the Boston Marathon. They’ve been a fantastic partner to work with. And I'm happy to talk more or answer any questions anybody has.

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