Sunday, 21 February 2016

Sports for Schools - a Naked Element Case Study

Sports for Schools run athlete-led physical activities events to inspire children to participate in more sport, raise money for PE equipment in schools (over £1.75m to date), and support GB and Olympic athletes financially. They partner school groups with athletes to motivate and encourage children to enjoy being active and boost confidence. The company’s current system was labour intensive and needed a smoother, more integrated booking system. Naked Element’s developer Matt Wells explained “staff had to schedule the time-table for the whole of the following term manually, relying on their knowledge of athlete & school locations and resolving any issues raised by changes in availability and double bookings etc. As the following term approached this would eventually lead to a very labour intensive, ‘big-bang’ scheduling activity.”

“Naked Element implemented a brand new event scheduling system to automate and improve what was originally a manpower intensive, spreadsheet based process. The new System provides a web interface that enables Sports for Schools Athletes and Sportivaters to manage their own availability and always gives them an up to date view of their future events.”

“The majority of the functionality however is tailored for Sports for Schools staff. This enables them to view a list of the closest athletes/sportivaters to a given school (in real-time whilst they are on the phone to that school). Once they’ve selected the appropriate candidates it then indicates their availability and also shows when they are already scheduled on other events nearby to minimise travel time between events. The date can be selected and the athletes/sportivaters assigned at the same time.”

The project was not without its hurdles though! A flexible, two-way integration with the existing CRM was required, to enable staff to stay in control of their own data. “We took a pragmatic approach to solve this issue” Matt says “one that focused on the needs of the administrative staff. Rather than being prescriptive about when and what they were allowed to do, we gave them the tools to move data between the systems and ensured that they had a good understanding of how and when to use (and not to use) those tools.”

The software also required extensive use of 3rd party mapping and geocoding APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), which can prove costly. Naked Elements’ initial solution was to use Google APIs “but it soon became clear that the number of calls necessary to the APIs exceeded Google’s free usage quotas and even the entry level licensing costs were understandably much too expensive for our client.”

“We therefore ported the whole system to use some similar MapQuest APIs. However, this caused a number of issues because the postcode coverage of the MapQuest APIs was significantly poorer than those of Google. In the end we required a more complex technical solution under the hood which used the MapQuest APIs, but was capable of falling back on the Google APIs for postcodes that MapQuest struggled with.”

Michael Ledzon, director of Sports for Schools, was impressed by the speed at which Naked Element were able to determine what was required. He initially decided to work with Naked Element because he was aware of our background, education and experience. The requirements capture was “excellent and straightforward”, which was something that was important to Michael. The cycle of development was efficient too, in no small way due to the effective communication between Naked Element and Sports For Schools. “Naked Element was able to understand our requirements and beaver away – we never felt we had to chase for anything. They drove the project and made sure it all happened in a timely manner. I have been involved in projects that have been the opposite.”

“The end product is very intuitive and clean and that’s been really good. They captured our requirements and turned it into something easy and useful. All the users love it and I’ve had other companies ask who we got our system from!” So when asked if he would recommend Naked Element?

“Absolutely. In fact I already have!”

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