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Sports Tech: The Top Challenges in 2024

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Understanding the challenges in sports technology is key to crafting innovative products that redefine the industry. In this blog, we discuss the top challenges that companies in this space are facing.

Speed of Innovation

Innovation is touted as a top priority, yet many organizations find themselves hindered by sluggish progress. The lack of internal resources often leads to prolonged development timelines, with promising ideas sitting around for far longer than anticipated. Our co-founder Chris Shreeve said, “For startups, it’s been even more challenging to get things ramped up because the capital markets are tight and spending is more conservative with those that have already raised.” There is a race underway in the sports, betting, fantasy, and iGaming industries to enhance user experiences and increase customer retention. As organizations strive to innovate and streamline their offerings, the need for agile development processes and strategic resource allocation becomes increasingly apparent. By embracing a proactive approach to innovation and investing in the right tools and talent, companies can position themselves to thrive.

Inconsistent Data Integration

Another glaring issue is the inconsistent integration of data. Sports app developers often face challenges in accessing reliable and standardized data across various platforms. This inconsistency not only hampers the accuracy of analytics but also limits the potential for creating seamless user experiences. Mitch Heath, Co-Founder of Teamworks said, “The next wave of innovation… will move towards… a true operating system model that you’ve seen in other industries where all those different pieces, all those best-in-class pieces of technology start talking to each other, and we start getting better insights and better data as a result.” To bridge this gap, industry professionals must advocate for standardized data formats and establish collaborations to ensure a more cohesive and integrated data ecosystem.

The Opportunity of Time

Collaborating with an underperforming team and enduring delays caused by partners can be a frustrating reality. Many of these setbacks stem from avoidable decisions. Choices made to prioritize cost savings over quality and efficiency often result in self-inflicted wounds that impede progress. In sports technology, the relationship between cost, quality, and time is of the highest importance. Unfortunately, the significance of time as an opportunity cost is frequently overlooked, especially in an industry where the competitive landscape drives a relentless pursuit of cost reduction. The consequences of sacrificing time for short-term savings can be profound, ultimately undermining the overall quality and effectiveness of the product. As stated by Shreeve, “Choosing the cheaper route for technology development is a tale as old as time and it’s the time you waste as a business that could be your downfall. It’s ok for price to be at the forefront of your decisions, but when you get back low-quality deliverables past your ideal deadlines, there’s only one place to look.” As professionals in the sports, betting, fantasy, and iGaming industries, it’s imperative to recognize the importance of striking a balance between these three elements. By prioritizing quality and efficiency alongside cost considerations, organizations can navigate the risk of setbacks and position themselves for long-term success.

Insufficient Fan Engagement Strategies

In the sports, betting, fantasy, and iGaming industries, fan engagement is the lifeline of success. However, the current ecosystem often falls short of delivering engaging experiences to users. Real-time updates, personalized recommendations, and immersive interfaces can transform the user experience and drive sustained interest in sports technology. Despite technological advancements, users often face fragmented experiences when navigating this technology. From fantasy sports platforms to sports betting apps, the lack of a seamlessly integrated experience hinders user satisfaction. Prioritizing and creating user-centric interfaces ensures that users can seamlessly transition between different features within the app. A cohesive and intuitive user experience is pivotal for retaining users and driving engagement.

Scaling Engineering Teams

Scaling an engineering team presents challenges that require strategic adaptability. As demand for cutting-edge solutions rises within the sports, betting, fantasy, and iGaming industries, engineering teams face pressure to expand their ranks without compromising quality. Acquiring top-tier talent is a focal point that requires innovative recruitment strategies. The timeframe it takes to hire a new member of the team can take anywhere from 3-6 months to find the right resources. Angelo Andre, Locker Room Labs’ Fractional CTO said, “The recruitment process can be very time-consuming for several people within the team and they must make a conscious decision to take the productivity hit to find the right candidate.” However, the journey towards scalability entails fostering a culture of collaboration and cohesion within the team. These diverse skill sets require great leadership and an environment where every team member’s expertise is valued and integrated seamlessly.  

Project Management

Inadequate project management will derail progress and erode efficiency. The absence of robust project management practices can lead to incorrect objectives, a lack of communication, and missed deadlines. To navigate these challenges, organizations must prioritize the implementation of project management frameworks that enhance accountability and optimize workflows. In our conversations with Yev Rachkovan, Gamification Engineer & CTO at Scrimmage, he said, “At the very least, consider bringing in a Fractional CTO or a technical advisor. Acquiring such expertise for your project might come at a cost…[However], this investment has the potential to save you months of time and hundreds of thousands of dollars, making the return on your investment quite clear.” Bringing in this type of expertise will allow for clear communication channels and empower teams with the tools they need to succeed. With this, organizations can avoid the risks associated with poor project management and drive toward their scalability goals with confidence.

Software Certification

To get software certified, engineering teams must navigate a maze of compliance mandates and industry-specific requirements to ensure their solutions meet rigorous standards of integrity and security. The path toward software certification has many challenges, from resource constraints to procedural hurdles. From data protection protocols to compliance transparency, the certification process demands attention to detail and a deep understanding of regulatory frameworks. Organizations must navigate these challenges with precision by leveraging the expertise of their engineering teams to address compliance gaps and streamline the certification journey. As said by Andre, “When entering a regulated market software certification is a required step that must be completed. Certification can be complicated and varied depending on the jurisdiction you wish to enter, from code deployment processes to hosting requirements, all aspects of the application will be tested. With the right combination of people and processes, software certification can be successfully navigated and ultimately become a routine part of software development.”

Regulatory Challenges

The online gambling industry faces a ton of regulatory challenges that vary across regions. This lack of uniformity hinders the seamless operation of sports, betting, fantasy, and iGaming platforms. Sports technology professionals should advocate for standardized regulations that ensure fair play, secure transactions, and responsible gambling practices. Christopher Schroder, Colorado Division of Gaming Director, recently sat down with us to discuss how the state of Colorado approaches these challenges. “Responsible Gaming is very important to the Department of Revenue and the Division of Gaming which is why we recently created and hired a new Responsible Gaming Manager position for our Division. The responsible Gaming Manager will work with operators to review and approve the responsible gaming plans that the operators submit to the Division, and they’ll work with players to provide them with appropriate information and resources related to problem gaming.” The collaborative effort, as highlighted by Christopher, is essential for operators to navigate the intricate regulatory landscape and establish a framework that fosters innovation while prioritizing user safety. 

Privacy and Data Concerns

In an era where data breaches make headlines, the sports technology ecosystem is not exempt from privacy concerns. Sports, betting, fantasy, and iGaming platforms handle sensitive user data, necessitating robust security measures. Prioritizing the implementation of state-of-the-art encryption technologies, adhering to strict data protection standards, and regularly updating security protocols, are key. Building trust in the safety of user data is fundamental to the long-term success of sports technology.

Lack of Innovation 

Sports technology faces criticism for a lack of innovation. The industry can also be criticized for an overreliance on traditional models. Many operators offer similar features which leads to a saturated market. Sports app developers can disrupt this pattern by exploring new technologies, such as odds prediction models and AI-driven analytics, to enhance the betting experience. The infusion of machine learning algorithms can also transform the strategic aspects of sports technology by providing users with a more nuanced and intellectually stimulating gaming experience. These integrations can offer users more accurate player projections and dynamic gameplay experiences. Innovations that cater to user preferences and leverage emerging technologies will not only set sports technology apart but also invigorate the industry as a whole. 

What Happens Next?

While the sports technology ecosystem has witnessed incredible strides, acknowledging and addressing its shortcomings is essential for sustained growth and innovation. The collaborative efforts of professionals in the sports technology industry can pave the way for a more cohesive, inclusive, and technologically advanced future. By focusing on data integration, fan engagement, and regulatory standards, the industry can collectively mend the fractures and redefine the sports technology landscape for the better.

At Locker Room Labs, we address these hurdles with our many app development service offerings for the sports technology industry. We are a US-based and software engineer-owned development team specializing in sports, betting, fantasy, and iGaming. From UI/UX Design and MVP Development to Custom App Development and Fractional CTO services, we are tailored to bring sports software to life. A testament to our innovation is “The Playbook,” a proprietary sports platform-as-a-service that accelerates development time to market and curtails custom software build costs for clients. To learn more, contact us here.

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