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Fitness for Purpose

Fitness for Purpose - Local Government Magazine February 2017

New technologies are changing the way aquatic and recreation facilities do business.

A young mum books her daughter in for swimming lessons on her mobile phone during her lunch break at work. A team leader at the local recreation centre sees new fitness club bookings in real-time and organises additional sessions. A council manager plans an aquatic facility based on community demand.
Information technology is proving to be a large game changer for managers of council-owned recreation facilities. And councils and local communities alike are reaping the benefits.
Among the believers is Invercargill City Council, which uses some of the latest technology to make it easier for locals and visitors to make the most of recreation centres and aquatic facilities in New Zealand’s southern-most city.
The council’s aquatic services manager Peter Thompson says now the technology to analyse historic data across council business units is available, it is possible to review years and months at a glance, forecasting impact on council rates immediately when planning.
At Splash Palace, Centaman facility management software helps collate information about busy times of year and customer preferences. This leads to greater understanding of how to improve the services the aquatic centre offers the community, Peter says.
“It’s what you do with the information you have that counts. A good facility management system helps to identify the issues.
“From a level-of-service perspective, this shows us if attendance and membership is increasing or declining, and how different groups participate. If you can get that level of data, you can analyse it and make use of the results.”
New web- and mobile-based technology also plays a large role, enabling Splash Palace to connect with customers and even staff members.
Splash Palace uses several tools on mobile platforms, including a mobile app designed by Peter and New Zealand-based online rostering and timesheeting software Rosterit, which allows staff to create and check rosters online and from their mobile phones.
Web-based applications are also effective, allowing signup for swim school classes from anywhere customers have internet access. These same applications provide tools for swim teachers to deliver detailed progress reports to parents.
Peter says the ideal situation is when all facets of a facility’s IT infrastructure can come together to complement and support each other.
In the broader business sector, good information technology is a must-have. Nearly a quarter (24 percent) of chief executives surveyed in the 19th Annual Global CEO Survey from PricewaterhouseCoopers felt they did not have enough information about what customers or stakeholders wanted. The most common challenge for operations leaders (63 percent) was understanding what customers value.
Sixty-eight percent of CEOs backed the power of data and analytics to deliver these results, with customer relationship management (CRM) systems a close second at 65 percent. From New Zealand respondents, an even greater proportion (72 percent) felt data and analytics would generate the greatest return in terms of engagement with stakeholders.
Community Leisure Management (CLM) general manager of programmes and IT Geoff Barton agrees good use of data and analytics in recreation facilities improves business efficiency as well as the experience for staff and customers.
CLM specialises in recreation facility management for local government, and employs over 400 staff, servicing 15 recreation facilities across New Zealand.
Geoff recently led the implementation of a ‘live data’ project across CLM terminals to enable greater transparency of membership data, participation numbers and financial information.
“When we started on the project, I knew it had to be something special. With good information technology, we can establish a culture of awareness amongst our staff.
“We’ve linked through using Centaman software as our database, along with OBDC [open database connectivity] and SQL. From front-line staff to the board members, we can see what’s happening to the minute.”
It is early in the project, but there have been immediate qualitative results. Geoff says live data has improved staff knowledge of what is required to achieve KPIs, increased staff feedback and engagement and streamlined reporting for councils.
In addition, the need for staff to request data from management has been “virtually eliminated”, saving time and giving staff the tools they need to effect positive change.
“I deal directly with fitness, and can see the difference already. We have seen a gradual increase in membership numbers in fitness programmes, and they are now at the highest [level] they have ever been. The great thing is that once staff know how to use the system, they don’t have to ask. They can find the information themselves. It has cut down on a lot of administration time.”

Top five tech tools for recreation facilities

  • Live data. Live data reporting across multiple sites allows staff to view their impact on the business, increasing staff engagement and efficiency.
  • Facility management software. Software packages such as Centaman and Envibe from Jonas Leisure offer reporting and analytics, swim school management, point of sale, membership data, customer relationship management and bookings all in one.
  • Web-based applications. CoursePro swim school software allows paperless online signup, while online roster systems allow more effective administration and communication with staff.
  • Automated monitoring systems include automated pool water quality testing software that makes data available via an iPad, computer terminal or website.
  • Wireless systems can transmit data to a tablet or wristband alert, ensuring recreation facility staff can come to the rescue in the case of an incident.

This article was first published in the February 2017 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.

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