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February 23, 2015
A Technology Intro for Coaches; How to Navigate this New World

“The real problem is not whether machines think, but whether men do” BF Skinner, American Psychologist

Technology is influencing the world of sports performance in a big way these days. This will be a multi-part series discussing technology in general, penned by the Chief Technology Officer at Sparta, Richard Heal. It won’t discuss specific applications to avoid bias. The idea is to educate, as like nutrition there are many myths and a lot of misinformation. We will try to dispel those myths and provide useful information.

Lets start with some basic software terminology and observations.

3 Types of Software; Personal, Package, or Cloud Software.

1. Personal Software

Most people are familiar with personal software. You download from the internet or install from a CD onto your own computer. In general, the data (information) you manage with this application is kept locally on your computer (your hard drive). The information will not be easily shared, however you are responsible for managing your data and the application so this option is becoming less common due to multiple monitoring needs.

  • When was last virus check? What about new operating systems?
  • When was last time you performed a backup? Where is the backup?
  • If you lost your computer (or it was stolen) how quickly would you be back up and running?

2. Package Software

This software is bought and installed on computers that your company owns/manages. The deployment of this software (installing new versions, bug fixes) is your staff’s responsibility (IT departments). The equipment is managed by your IT staff, scheduling hardware maintenance, managing the backups, disaster recovery process etc. Generally the software is purchased with a perpetual license (forever) and an annual support contract. Your IT department will be responsible for ensuring the availability of systems for employees to use. As I mentioned, they will have a disaster recovery plan. It is big task!

Cloud-Software3. Cloud Software

Most cloud software is accessed via an internet browser such as Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, IE Explorer etc., or a custom interface such as mobile and tablet devices. When your company purchases a cloud software product, it is rented. The provider of the software often outsources the management of the hardware to a 3rd party. The software provider might use a hosting company who provides the system administration and management (there are Many) include Amazon, IBM, Microsoft, Rackspace, BlueHost, etc. When you rent cloud software you may not know the hosting company. In some cases the software company is also the hosting company (e.g., Microsoft, IBM, Google). In most cases the hosting company is unknown unless you ask your software vendor.

Which is better, Cloud or Package? Surprisingly to most people, the Cloud (renting software) isn’t a new concept. It has been around since the 60s. Although then it was called Time Sharing. We won’t debate the differences, rather, simply accept renting software and resources isn’t a new idea. The big cost saving is management of the hardware and software. There are also architectural reasons why a company chooses a cloud over package solution.

So, what do I buy? The answer like when I ask our coaches for the best training program is “It depends” on a a few major facets of your organization; Internal resourcesCost, and Access to data. Today there are many reasons to favor Cloud. So, lets focus more on the cloud and a few major issues.

If you get something for free you have to question its value

No company can stay in business for long if everything is free. They have to make money sometime, somehow. Do you want to get something for free, spend time with it and then it disappears because it didn’t survive?

Paying customers might be subsidizing the free version. Or free really isn’t completely free. Maybe the free version has advertising. Maybe free version is hardly valuable. Call me a skeptic, but with some of this free software I think of those teaser interest rates…I’m going to get caught somewhere or they go bust.

If it is free, do I own the data?

Remember you have moved your value information (photos, music, spreadsheets) from your computer (that you paid money to own) to a drive in the cloud owned by someone else. Who owns the data? Who can look at the data?

Personally I avoid free. Or I check the internet to learn what can be done with my information. Often the practice includes scanning of content to determine advertising targets. Or promoting certain products. If I do use a free product the first place I check is Profile/Settings/Privacy. I change these settings as best I can.

You should care about your data! So you decide to evaluate a Cloud based product. We purchased several here at Sparta. You have probably researched a product on the internet, know major features and USPs (Unique Selling Points), watched an online video etc.

Much of the cloud software you purchase will use a hosting service as mentioned previously. My first two questions are:

1. Do you have a document of backup and disaster recovery plan?

The first question will give a comfort level of availability and reliability

2. How do you use my data?

The second question gives insight if I’m going to get tons of email spams, or marketed to by people I don’t know. I’m accepting that people will use my data. But I want ensure it is anonymously and for research. It shouldn’t take more than a few sentences for someone to explain. Yes, the Privacy and Terms and Conditions will have this information, and yes for legal reasons it will be more than a few sentences and yes you should read it. That doesn’t mean don’t ask the question….if the response is cagey or non-committal I stay away.

sparta-48-1024x712Richard Heal grew up in Plymouth, England playing soccer. His 30 year career in the software industry has included included software development, mergers and acquisitions, customer service, partner management and professional services. He helped Unison Software through an acquisition by IBM.

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February 23, 2015
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3 thoughts on “A Technology Intro for Coaches; How to Navigate this New World”

  1. What do you think of Kitman Labs technology? It all communicates – talks with each other. So, you could have Catapult data, Sparta Force Plate data, biomechanical data, Omegawave data, sleep and nutrition data, medical injury data, etc – and all of it talks to each other. Looks like cutting edge stuff to me and they recently opened US office in Menlo Park. Just curious on your views.

    1. Thank you John. We bring in all of that data as well to focus on the harder, most critical part of any data…using it with validated processes. Our focus remains on functionality, specifically using predictive modeling to create and refine training plans.

      Sparta force plate data and use is patented and currently not integrated with any software other than our own.

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