What you need to know
- The NFL and several teams used Microsoft products for the virtual NFL Draft.
- Organizations communicated with Microsoft Teams, and several organizations used Surface devices.
- Microsoft and the NFL have a long-standing partnership involving Surface devices.
The NFL draft takes months of scouting, planning, and communication for NFL teams. Selecting a player can make or break an organization, so teams spend a significant amount of time and effort into making selections. On draft day, most teams have a "war room," where general managers, scouts, and assistants work together on a draft board. With the current health crisis restricting people's level of contact, teams had to look in another direction. Microsoft and the NFL partnered together to facilitate communication within organizations and between teams.
The NFL and Microsoft working together isn't new. Microsoft has a long-standing marketing agreement with the NFL surrounding Surface devices, but the first-ever virtual draft created a unique situation. James Bernstrom, product marketing director for Microsoft, said, "The NFL had a challenge to accurately, securely and quickly capture who the draft picks were, and Teams had the features we needed to put together a solution." Microsoft explains how Microsoft Teams was utilized during the virtual NFL draft in a new post.
Each individual organization had a private Microsoft Teams channel to coordinate picks and trades. When teams made a selection, they would use a form that the NFL would then authenticate using a tool called "Power Automate." Once authenticated, the pick would then appear on a private "Head Table" channel and relay the pick to Commissioner Roger Goodell's Surface. The pick was then announced on the air.
Microsoft and the NFL held multiple dry-runs to test out the technology, including a full mock draft with over 100 participants. Teams also took time to customize their environments. For example, the Kansas City Chiefs created several rooms, including "Draft," "Coaching," "Scouting," and "Medical."
In addition to using Microsoft Teams, several people involved in the NFL Draft used Surface devices. Microsoft's Joe Belfiore pointed out that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers used two Surface Studios.
The draft went off smoothly, and organizations seemed impressed with Microsoft Teams. The Minnesota Vikings' football information systems director, Paul Nelson, said the Vikings might use Teams going forward, "There are several things we learned. Virtual meetings will be something we can use going forward to potentially reduce travel costs; we were forced to reevaluate how we prepare for the draft, and were able to develop some technology driven solutions to streamline the preparation process; we're looking at using Teams for our college scouting applications going forward. The success we've had — and the comfort level people have developed — will make future integration easier."
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