StubHub, the online ticket exchange where fans buy or sell sports, concert, theater, and exclusive event tickets, faced the daunting task in 2006 of how to create a unified view of financial transactions across a rapidly growing array of financial systems.

The Challenge: Systems integration on a limited budget and a short window of opportunity

In order to be more attractive for acquisition or IPO, StubHub needed to become cash positive and prove the validity of their business model. To do this they would need to integrate and grow their IT systems to give them a competitive market advantage. And like many startups, StubHub’s biggest challenge was how to accomplish this on a limited budget and within a very short time frame.

StubHub’s financial transactions lacked a single version of the truth due to reliance on  disparate financial systems including PayPal, Wells Fargo Bank, FedEx, their online e-commerce site, Great Plains Accounting system and AccountEx, a homegrown Microsoft Access application. AccountEx had become a mission-critical application on which StubHub relied for all its payments and purchases of online tickets.

This resulted in conflicting transaction data, such as the time and date when the transaction was to be realized as revenue across all the financial systems. Clear and unified transaction definitions across all their systems were necessary to meet general accounting principals and be SOX-compliant. These were requirements for StubHub to look attractive enough for either an acquisition or an IPO.

As Rob Singer, Director of Business Intelligence at StubHub in 2006 puts it, “We didn’t have a centralized database or reporting system, and we lacked the metrics needed to measure the performance of our company.”

Andy Page, Vice President of Finance said, “Realizing revenue consistently across all our financial systems is critical to StubHub’s long term growth.”

The Solution: MS Access-driven integration of multiple disparate systems

Enter Help4Access, a national leader in custom application development and integration. Given StubHub’s budget and time constraints, Help4Access recommended leveraging the existing Microsoft Access database already at the heart of the process to serve as the central point of integration for the various evolving financial and e-commerce systems.

Sasha Froyland, Founder of Help4Access, points out that, “The need to integrate the financial systems was obvious. The biggest challenge was how to ‘productionalize’ their homegrown Microsoft Access database application, AccountEx, and rewrite the application making it more robust, reliable and scalable while the application continues to process financial transactions 24 hours a day, seven days a week with no system documentation and no application knowledge or support. It was like performing open heart surgery on a patient without anesthesia.”

Help4Access worked closely with StubHub to analyze the existing business process and develop a strategy that would provide the integration and throughput needed to achieve their objectives.

Their tasks included:

  • Defining the ticket purchase event that constitutes the precise point in time when the revenue should be realized.
  • Performing a gap analysis between the Microsoft Access database, the Great Plans accounting systems and StubHub’s online e-commerce application to define the integration requirements.
  • Migrating event flags and other critical functionality out of the Microsoft Access application and phase it into the Great Plans accounting software and also into StubHub’s e-commerce system.
  • Enhancing the Microsoft Access application to automatically send and receive transactions from the other accounting and e-commerce systems and logging and recoverability.
  • Productionalizing the Microsoft Access application by using an Agile methodology to rewrite the application in a series of production drops that coincided with changes being made to the e-commerce system.
  • Document the new Microsoft Access application and train Accounting and Customer Support staff on the new business processes and features.

The Benefits: Improved performance, reduced cost and enhanced value

The results speak for themselves. StubHub’s transaction processing capabilities increased from $250,000 to $1.5 million per day following the implementation of Help4Access’s solution, boosting StubHub’s overall value by 10 percent thanks to the improved accuracy, efficiency and marketing effectiveness.

With the newly integrated system StubHub was also able to apply web analytics, resulting in an 8.5 percent increase in revenue in 2006 and generating $5.4 million of additional revenue in that year alone. Acquired by eBay in 2007 for $310 million, StubHub continues to thrive in the aftermarket ticket sales market.

Lack of integration across multiple, disparate systems is very common in companies experiencing rapid growth and expansion. Help4Access’s Froyland said, “By directing a group of cross-functional teams consisting of database administrators (DBAs), quality assurance analysts (QAs) and production support, Help4Access overhauled StubHub’s transaction infrastructure from the ground-up and boosted access to data while greatly reducing data latency.”

Help4Access is a leader in on-time, on-budget customized database solutions that give scalability and competitive advantage to clients in e-commerce, manufacturing, government sector, utilities, health care, financial services and education. Since being founded in 1997, Help4Access has written and delivered hundreds of successful custom database applications that leverage its rapid application expertise and proven, reusable code libraries. Help4Access creates solutions for some of the biggest global brands such as Wells Fargo, Hewitt Packard and Google as well as many smaller pre-IPO and startup companies.

“We’re very proud to be part of StubHub’s incredible success story” says Sasha, “by implementing an integrated, Microsoft Access centric solution, we were able to deliver the customization needed to fuel StubHub’s phenomenal growth with zero downtime. We delivered on time and within budget.”