Kansas City, MO
info@artisantechgroup.com

Beyond the Scores

Your Development Partner

Client Overview

In 2011 the youth sports market was in desperate need of technology platforms to run their businesses on. Most competitions involved mailing in registration forms along with checks.  Scoring was done on paper and awards were hand calculated. The fan experience was very challenging for sports like gymnastics. The founders of Beyond the Scores wanted to change all of this by building a platform that entire sports could operate on.

Objectives

  1. Create a web application for club owners to view meet information, including time, location, and competition level, select participating athletes from their current roster, and submit payment.
  2. Create a web application for meet directors to invite clubs to their upcoming meets, organize the meet schedule based on time, location, and skill level, and communicate results quickly and accurately, usually within minutes of the final performance.
  3. Create a mobile-friendly web application, to be used by judges and volunteers on laptops, tablets, and smartphones, to enter scores at the judging table, as well as a highly customizable scoring display for athletes and fans to view scores within seconds of being submitted by the judge.
  4. Create a web application for league managers to track membership of all competing clubs and athletes across seasons, including up-to-date registration information, annual fees, and sanctioned meets.
  5. Create a mobile application, available on iOS and Android, to follow clubs and athletes, view upcoming meet schedules, and see real-time scores and ranks during a meet.

Challenge

During this time, we were seeing a rapid evolution of the modern web, including cloud computing, the growing capabilities with the web platform, smartphones and mobile devices becoming the dominant source of all consumer traffic, and the decreasing cost of media appliances.  However, the sports industry was relying on legacy systems that had been developed 20+ years earlier, requiring expensive proprietary hardware systems, back office server solutions, and platform-specific desktop applications.

Many of the larger event organizers and national organizations were skeptical about moving away from these established solutions, so in order to win them over, Beyond the Scores had to prove that they could provide a better experience for coaches, athletes, and fans, while still providing the same level of functionality as the existing solutions.  They were also building solutions for an audience that was traditionally less tech-savvy, these were primarily coaches and retired athletes, not CIOs and CTOs, so it took time to understand the value of moving away from their old systems onto something completely brand new.

In order to win them over, Beyond the Scores needed to enter the market with a big splash to get everyone’s attention.  Artisan Technology Group worked diligently alongside stakeholders and end users to design and build innovative, high-quality solutions, including mobile-friendly score entry, visual displays running on consumer hardware, and mobile applications for real-time updates.  Within a couple years, these established vendors whose solutions had not changed much in decades began to offer similar features, which not only affirms the overall mission of Beyond the Scores but also lends credibility to their approach, helping to establish them as a premier brand.

Process

Beyond the Scores was on a mission to disrupt an industry that was in need of a major overhaul, and they needed a technology partner that they could rely on to help with business strategy, product development, marketing, and technical direction.  Artisan Technology Group was able to provide a team of experts to help discover what this industry was missing, develop a strategy to build a new platform and take it to market, design a solution that takes advantage of the latest technologies, and deliver value quickly, allowing the company to make adjustments as needed to reach their goals.

The first version of the Beyond the Scores platform was launched in February 2012 at the Cupid Classic gymnastics meet in Kansas City, MO, using Amazon Web Services for industry-leading performance and scale, and featured a mobile-friendly score entry web application, a high-definition scoreboard running in a web browser that could be displayed using a projector or TV, a mobile application available on iOS, and a competition dashboard for meet directors, along with a team of experts on-site to provide support during the event.

By following an MVP approach to building software, focusing on short iterations and faster feedback cycles, Artisan Technology Group was able to give Beyond the Scores the insight they needed to design a new version of the platform, that would later become the foundation of the platform that exists today.  Up to this point, the meets were primarily being operated by Beyond the Scores staff, but the platform was made available to the public the following season, a little over 1 year after the initial pilot was launched.

Over the next few years, the platform grew to include web applications offering a wide range of services for club owners, league managers, parents, and athletes, mobile applications for coaches and fans available on iOS and Android, and custom 3rd party integrations.

Solution

In order to achieve a solution that was accessible to a wide range of users on a variety of devices and platforms, Artisan Technology Group developed a cloud-native solution running on Amazon Web Services, using an API-first approach to development, meaning that a great emphasis was placed on a deep understanding of the sports industry, and building a performant, flexible REST API that could be used to provide support for a variety of applications.  This approach not only gave Beyond the Scores the ability to build a variety of different applications to service a wide range of users, but they were able to do it with less time and fewer resources than would have been required to build a fully custom solution for each application.

Within AWS, Artisan Technology Group took advantage of Elastic Beanstalk for load balancing, auto-scaling, and monitoring, allowing Beyond the Scores to support the platform without the resources to hire a fully dedicated Operations team.  Artisan Technology Group also stayed on top of new offerings within AWS, taking advantage of other fully-managed solutions, such as S3 for media, RDS for storage, SQS for inter-service communication, and Lambda for asynchronous and event-driven tasks.

 

The software stack was chosen using “best in breed” solutions for each use case, resulting in a variety of technologies composed together to provide a flexible and robust suite of services, including:

  • C#.NET – the middle tier of the platform, including the hosted web applications, and the REST APIs, deployed using AWS Elastic Beanstalk
  • SQL Server – the primary data storage engine for the platform, and deployed using Amazon RDS for streamlining operations
  • MongoDB – secondary data source, used to store social data requiring a high volume of traffic, fast lookups, and scale out capabilities
  • Angular – the front-end web framework used to create the web and mobile applications
  • TypeScript – a new language developed by Microsoft, inspired by C#, used to provide static typing and compilation, resulting in higher productivity and fewer bugs
  • Ionic – a hybrid mobile framework, built on Angular and PhoneGap, used for creating iOS and Android apps from a single codebase, allowing for a faster time-to-market with fewer resources
  • AWS Lambda – a new technology offered by AWS, used for asynchronous tasks, such as image processing, e-mail notifications, and 3rd party integrations
  • Node.js – the platform used to deploy code on AWS Lambda

Result

After the initial launch of the Beyond the Scores platform, usage of the platform (based on the total number of users, athletes, and competitions) grew significantly, usually more than double from season to season.  By the time the project was completed, the platform had grown from nothing to 1000’s of competitions, across the US, Canada, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

New features were deployed regularly, at least once a week, and often multiple times a week, but despite this incredible growth, Beyond the Scores was never required to hire a fully dedicated Operations team, and the stability and performance of the platform was never a concern, due to the expert team provided by Artisan Technology Group.

In June 2016, Beyond the Scores was acquired by SportsEngine, a division of NBC Sports, that provides software solutions for youth and amateur sports.  Artisan Technology Group continued to provide support and maintenance through August 2018, and the project is now being fully managed by SportsEngine.

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