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Tech: Reboots, Tests, and Lessons Learned

Matt Leverich


I haven’t delved into technology posts lately on this blog, instead focusing on career topics. It’s been due to not having enough time to offer quality advice in a field that constantly changes. Why, you might ask? Well, I have been working for the last 18 months on a new project for the industry that occupied any free time I had. And it’s finally done, at least version 1. 

I don’t usually speak directly on this blog about our products, but I think this service is beneficial to both your operation and career, plus it has a lesson in doing things the right way and hiring professionally. Which of course I always encourage on this blog. The message here is to keep trying new and innovative things, they will eventually reward you. 

The Idea
conditions.jpgWe had an idea two years ago for a communications app for superintendents to communicate daily course conditions to golfers. The problem with all current forms of communication is that they require the golfer to visit them on their own or filtered through a social feed with all kinds of distractions competing for their attention. In particular, maintenance blogs and Twitter have become more of a sharing environment between turf professionals, and golfers get left behind or not engaged. 

How could we solve this? Through a custom-built app just for supers to send info to golfers, and with push notifications to ensure golfers actually got the message. And Conditions app was born. 

You would think with tech abilities from our other products that myself and our programming staff would jump on this with ease. Not so fast -- native app development is a completely different computer language than anything we use for web applications. We wanted to get out there quickly to verify it in the marketplace, and decided to use a third-party plugin that was built around a templated app. We would be submitting a slight variant of the app for each course to the App Store. It was the fast solution, and not the right one. 

Dealing with Problems

In less than 7 months after we began building our test apps, Apple released the now infamous (in tech anyway) 4.2.6 guideline that essentially banned templated apps. This meant all our work building out examples and testing with our first alpha clubs was a waste of time and money. 

We were left with one choice: bring it all in-house, hire, learn a new language, and build a completely custom solution through a singular app. 

This was what we should have done originally and now benefits the users greatly. I always write that you should hire professionals to assist with your career materials, and it’s no different here. It’s something I should have known better from my advice to you.

In the end, the product is now better, built exactly for supers (by me), bug free, and we know a new computer language. 

Testing It Out
Once we had a working version ready, we went to existing customers that were interested in jumping on early in the process. A key with technology is to ensure its reliability, especially when it involves your members. This is important when testing new things in your operation as well. 

So we spent all of 2018 in a Beta, testing with a very limited number of clubs, tweaking and building until we got it just right. 

The results from the Beta program were extremely positive from every tester. Golfers love the platform and are more educated as a result. I have received emails like this frequently:

Billy Weeks, Houston Country Club: “Our membership loves it! Congrats on a job well done with this app. If you need me as a reference for the app please use us.”

Pat Ryan, Sands Point Golf Club: “Everything is working great. Members love the app and a majority have signed up. It has been a huge help with our communications.”

And here we are, nearly 2 years later. Finally launching Conditions app at the GIS, fully confident in the reliability and success of the platform. Good things take time as they say. 

I think Conditions is something that is going to make your job a lot easier in the critical area of communication. Don’t be scared to jump on new tech when it’s done right. 


My Lesson Learned

Never take the quick and easy route, do it right even if it will take considerably more time. Always opt for the professional-grade solution in your operation. 

Not rushing and taking our time we were able to perfect the functionality so it is ready for launch with no issues or chances of a third-party altering our course of action. The same can be done in your operation by testing out new things on your nursery or research sites, use tech with only your committee first, etc. and only using professional-grade solutions (vs DIY I talk about often).

Always be ready to innovate to stay ahead of the curve, even if that innovation takes time and trial/error. 

Thanks for reading about this process, I felt it was a good way to explain a little bit inside our operation (delayed release of this app) and was an interesting business experience. Next post will be back to career/tech advice. 

Conditions App Information

If you would like to see how the finished product came out and if it might help in your operation, you can visit goplaybooks.com/conditions. 


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