Evolving Fitness Club Management Technology: Buy, Build or Partner?
The way forward for fitness club management.
The events of 2020 did not change the direction of our industry – that was already in play. What they did was force action, and some businesses were more ready than others.
Part of our job as a leading provider of fitness club management software is to anticipate and prepare for change. Leading into and throughout 2020 the ABC Team spent a significant amount of time evolving and progressing our technology. The result is a best-in-class technology suite that is holistic, modular and mobile. We will be sharing a lot more about our products and roadmap at IHRSA 2021. For now, let’s take at how we got here and used our mission to inform and accelerate development.
The Great Debate: Buy, Build or Partner?
Innovation and development in software is not a linear path. Once key features and necessary functionality are identified, solution providers have 3 high level options to consider: build, buy and partner. Each path has benefits and challenges.
In theory, building software sounds like a great idea. The technology is completely customized to your needs, it can give you a competitive edge, and there is inherent value in the intellectual property (IP). Potential pitfalls to this path are the unknowns: Do you have the right team in place? How long will it take and how much will it cost? Will the project detract from other business goals and objectives? Most importantly, are you prepared to continually support and upgrade the system? Technology can become outdated quickly, and it needs to evolve at the same rate as your business.
Buying technology tends to be more predictable. You may make some near-term feature compromises but the questions surrounding resources, performance, time, cost and support are usually answered ahead of time. The areas where buying can be tricky relate to integration, culture, goal alignment, and overall compatibility. Even the best acquisitions experience moments of friction that challenge leadership teams, especially when it comes to prioritization and the elimination of redundancies.
Compared to building and buying technology, partnering is usually a lot faster, less expensive and easier to rollback if the solution does not meet the business need. They can also be great stepping stones and testing grounds for new features and functionality. For a partnership to be successful, however, both companies need to be aligned on the goal, equally committed to the outcome, and agree on contract terms. Other things to keep in mind when considering a partnership are product ownership and roadmap. There could be some rigidity and friction here as the partnering business grow and evolve over time.
The state of fitness club management today.
To arrive at where we today with our fitness club management solution ABC’s Product Team explored and executed on a combined build, buy, partner strategy. We evolved our products in core categories like Revenue Cycle Management, Member Management and Club Administration. We bought best in class solutions like GymSales, Fitness BI and Trainerize to deliver better and faster on Member Acquisition, Reporting & Analytics and Member Engagement, respectively. And we are working with select partners to provide mission critical services like door access, camps and specialty booking.
In our next post, ABC’s Product Strategy: Our Path to a Complete Fitness Club Software Solution, we explore each of these in more detail, and what it means to your business.