This post was written by Senior Partnerships Consultant, Michael Scott.
Technology today is playing a greater role in youth sports than ever before. With the help of online platforms, gone are paper registrations, waivers, chasing parents for money, phone chains, newspaper ads and flyers. However, with so many different companies providing similar tools around sports management solutions, how do you make a decision?
After speaking with hundreds of organizations, these are some of the best questions that have been posed to me when helping potential partners assess a new piece of technology for their organization:
Does the platform improve the parent’s experience?
A great user experience means that everything from signing kids up to paying and keeping track of activities is simple and intuitive. When making your evaluation be sure to test what your participant’s will experience when using the platform. Is it easier than what you are asking parents to do now?
What value does this provide to our organization?
What are your goals when switching to another platform? Is it streamlining processes? A lot of technology vendors promise to make life easier – take note of the practical improvements. When considering the platform, think through how it eliminates manual entries, improves communication capabilities, and helps with the management and marketing of your organization. Without value in these areas, nothing else will matter. Ensure the platform is meeting your goals.
Is it cost-effective?
Free doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s good for your organization. The platform choice should align with your budget. When evaluating costs, the price should match your expectations and needs. If you are paying for a platform, can you quantify the value you are receiving in return — for instance, in units of time saved, increased reach of market, etc?
How are you getting charged?
From a business perspective, when researching costs, it’s important to understand the breakdown of costs. Your organization shouldn’t be charged if you’re not collecting money – and the money once collected should go straight into your bank account, not float another business. Are you paying for additional services or features like email, web hosting or offline payments received? Ensure you have a full understanding of the charges associated with the entire product and it’s services before committing to a platform.
What does the company do with the participant’s information?
Do you own your data? It is critical to understand what the platform does with member information. In some cases, member’s information can be sold to a third party, meaning participants are targeted for the rest of their lives because they played sports when they were younger. When you leave that platform, does your information leave with you?
How does support work?
Support is often forgotten until an unanticipated hurdle arises. It is crucial to understand how the vendor structures its support services. Many organizations have been left with a half-baked product because the vendor walked away after the sale. Are you being shuffled to a person overseas? Make sure you have a full knowledge of the guidance being provided, the terms of service and whether additional support is offered – and at what cost?
Are you able to integrate with your existing website?
With your established brand and website at the ready, selecting a platform that can integrate seamlessly is critical. If your organization has a great website why would you change it to use new technology? Selecting a platform to accept payments and registration does not have to mean investing in a whole new website.
Most people don’t buy a car without test driving it. Why would you implement technology without using it first? Having a trial allows you to see if it’s actually as easy to use as the company promises and gives you a sense of what you can expect.
Can you talk with existing customers?
Who better to explain the value of the technology than an organization that is using the product? The vendor should have confidence introducing you to a partner(s) that can illuminate the experience with first-hand knowledge.
How hard is it to implement this technology?
In order to fully understand the time to move to a new platform, it is key to grasp the processes and plans to put in place and a projected timeline of the associated activities. How long is the onboarding process? Does the vendor offer guidance with the set-up? Is there a launch plan and what are the associated costs? Knowing the answers to these questions will allow you to establish if you are going to be able to implement this technology in the expected timeframe.
What is the vendor’s product roadmap?
Is the vendor consistently updating the product? Do they take partner feedback into consideration? Are they focused on solving your needs today — and tomorrow? Understanding the roadmap of features, feedback loops and consistency and speed of innovation will allow you to assess whether the technology is a good fit.
With these questions in hand, your organization will be in a position to wade through all the outdated technology on the market. The evaluation process should be taken seriously. No one likes buying the house that looks pretty on the outside but has termites and plumbing issues lying within the woodwork. Make sure to ask the necessary questions to ensure a comprehensive evaluation.
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