Skip to main content

Wimbledon 2014: How can sporting events stay agile?

The Wimbledon Championships is a proud defender of its traditions, as some tennis players were reminded this year when they fell foul of the strict dress code. This traditionalism has played a large part in how the Wimbledon "brand" has become so strong and so successful, but it hasn't stopped it from embracing the modern age.

The strawberries and cream haven't gone away and tennis whites are still de rigueur, but Wimbledon is now as tech-savvy as any sporting event. Last year there were 20 million unique visits to The Championships' website, 432 million unique pageviews, 1.5 million live radio streams, and well over a million Twitter followers. The official Android and iOS Wimbledon apps were downloaded two million times, providing a wealth of live scores, results, order of play, draws, news and player profiles – all helping to bring fans worldwide as close to the action as possible.

Read more: IBM brings Watson supercomputer and new mobile site to Wimbledon 2014

The problem with success, however, is the pressure of expectation that it brings. Having delivered a winning performance, the crowd expects you to repeat it every year. Andy Murray knows how intense this pressure can be, and every player knows all too well the price of failure. It's never quite as easy, however, for organisations such as broadcasters, bookmakers or even the Championships themselves, to gauge the pressures on their own systems until it is too late. This is especially true of apps.

There is a host of mobile and tablet apps which make the Wimbledon experience that much richer, from the official Wimbledon app to broadcast, news, betting and social media applications. Any number of issues can affect the performance of these apps, from unexpected traffic levels to poor design to bad application management. These individual issues might often be difficult to predict, but the effects of poor app performance on end users – and on their sentiment towards that brand – is clear.

Read more: Sony shows off 4K Ultra HD TV with Wimbledon 'microtising' campaign

New research from AppDynamics has found that user expectations of app performance is increasing, with half of people in our study saying that they are less tolerant of problems with their apps than they were a year ago. That dissatisfaction has a direct impact on the app provider: a third of UK consumers say that they would spend more money with an organisation that had a good mobile app, while around the same proportion say that they would pay more for a product or service if the organisation's app performed better than its competitor.

Given the huge interest in the Championships across the world, the demands on Wimbledon-related apps are often heavy and unpredictable, leading to a higher likelihood of failure unless the right measures have been taken to guarantee performance and uptime.

Problems with apps are surprisingly commonplace; our research found that 82 per cent of UK smart device users have deleted or uninstalled an app because of poor performance. Meanwhile, almost half of those we surveyed have experienced a mobile app crash in the last 12 months. The result of such failure is lost revenue for the commercial apps, lost viewers for broadcasters, and a tarnished reputation for all involved.

For organisations that, like Wimbledon, are commitment to protecting their hard-won 'brand', managing and maintaining the performance of their various apps will be a key priority. That's because many businesses are being challenged by the rise of asset-light, information-rich organisations that have low operating costs and overheads, but use technology smartly to win customers. Even Wimbledon itself does not have the monopoly on tennis-related apps, with the BBC, Eurosport and Tennis Math all providing competition for the latest scores, news, stats and player interviews.

Read more: How to run Android apps on a Windows PC, the right way

Given our antipathy to poorly-performing apps, and since a competitor's app is often only a click away, it's vital that existing providers can adapt their existing IT infrastructure to become as nimble and app-friendly as possible, and so retain users and avoid damaging their brand.

Like old tennis pros facing a new generation of hotshot players, these established businesses can draw on great experience but also need to change their game. To do this, they need to become software-defined businesses (SDBs) – enterprises whose services are wholly or partly delivered through software. Notable examples of SDBs include Expedia and iTunes, both of whom have revolutionised traditional industries by creating a faultless user experience through apps and online.

Just as athletes' joints eventually begin to creak, businesses' aging IT infrastructure makes it harder for them to react as quickly or effectively to the opposition. Businesses have the advantage over players, however, because they have the opportunity to refresh and reinvent themselves, and give themselves true "app intelligence". If they can adapt, they will have every chance of emulating the success and reputation of the Championships themselves.

Tom Levey is a tech evangelist at AppDynamics, offering a performance management solution for companies' business-critical apps.

Images: Hannah Swithinbank, Flickr; Carine06, Flickr