Build or Buy Your Human Performance Platform?

By Dan Duffield and Markus Deutsch

If you work in human performance, you likely recognize the huge benefits of digitizing data and replacing cumbersome manual processes with automated digital workflows. When it comes time to find a human performance solution or Athlete Management System (AMS) to do this, the question often becomes: does it make more sense to build your own software or buy a proven solution?



The appeal of building your own solution is that – at least in theory – you’ll get exactly the features you want, can update it when needed, and won’t have to pay someone else to do it. The problem with this approach is that it’s likely to be a lot more expensive, complicated, and risky than you think. What’s more, it’s unlikely to provide the kind of robust functionality you need to make informed and timely decisions driven by performance, recovery, medical, and wellness data.

However, there are situations where building your own solution makes a lot of sense. Specifically:

  • You’re supporting a small group of individuals with no intention or possibility of expanding in terms of numbers or scope.
  • You need to support a one-off project with a fixed scope and don’t need much agility.
  • A pilot of a ‘quick-and-dirty’ solution will help you lay the foundation and build a business case for a more robust solution (and bigger budget).

In these cases, developing sophisticated spreadsheets and digital forms, or piecing together off-the-shelf analytics tools may very well be the best course of action.

If you decide to go this route, we highly recommend you coordinate with your IT department (even if your natural inclination is to avoid involving them). Working in human performance, your homegrown solution will store highly sensitive personal data that is subject to local, national, and possibly international regulations (especially when dealing with medical-related data). Your IT department can ensure the solution you develop has the appropriate data governance and security – mitigating your liability in the event of a data breach. They can also provide a degree of continuity when performance staff leaves.



Let’s take a closer look at the key reasons why buying a performance management solution is likely a better choice than attempting to build one in-house.




  • Cost of Maintenance. Updates to browsers, operating systems, or other core applications require additional coding to make your human performance platform jive with the latest version. This is especially true when it comes to data integrations you may have with devices, apps, or platforms. Vendor APIs change constantly – not keeping up with them means data sources won’t pull in complete or accurate data or will stop working all together. Shifting these responsibilities to a vendor, who spreads the cost of this maintenance over many clients, lowers the cost of maintenance for users.


  • Cost to Scale. While you may start small, for many modern human performance programs, the goal is to scale to include more departments, teams, users, and administrators. You’ll also likely want to roll out new features or extend the scope of the data sets you’re capturing, collating, and visualizing. In all cases, a homegrown platform is more difficult and expensive to scale than a solution you purchase. Finding a vendor that offers a scalable solution to suit your needs today while being able to support your long-term goals will help reduce the cost to scale your program.


  • Cost of Mobile. To increase engagement and compliance, it’s prudent to offer a mobile version of your performance management solution. Top vendors already offer on-the-go kiosk and athlete solutions. Building and maintaining a mobile app in-house is slow, prohibitively expensive, and requires a different set of skills that most tech-savvy performance professionals or IT departments don’t have.




  • Minimize Security and Compliance Risks. Homegrown solutions rarely meet basic HIPAA compliance and other data privacy, compliance, and security standards. Such solutions store sensitive personal information but are often stored on staff members’ own devices. This presents a significant security risk, particularly when they access athletes’ performance and health data via unsecured networks (like at airports or in coffee shops). Whereas a human performance platform such as Smartabase adheres to global security standards and is hosted in a highly secure environment that protects athlete privacy.


  • Manage Permissions. If you are supporting a group with various roles, chances are you’ll want to control who has access to what and put limits on what they’re allowed to do in the system. Building these complex structures and rules around groups, roles, and users into a homegrown system can be challenging.  More often, it’s limited to an all-or-nothing option. A mature human performance platform provides role-based access and group structures that allow you to easily manage who gets to do and see what.


  • Avoid Single Points of Failure. The harsh reality is that your current staff won’t stay together forever. Industry estimates on coaching and performance specialist turnover vary from 18% to 25% per year. Every time someone leaves your group, they take tribal knowledge with them. Homegrown solutions often have one person who knows what was built, why, and how. They are a single point of failure and pose a major risk to the continuity of your program if they were to leave. By working with a reputable vendor, you can have more confidence that the performance program you build won’t fall apart when someone on your staff leaves.




  • Robust Feature Set from Day One. Contrary to the imagined benefits of a homegrown solution, the end product is unlikely to be as versatile as a system you could purchase. This is because building out a system that’s easy-to-use, efficient, and automates all your workflows from end-to-end requires developing a robust set of features. Forging a partnership with an industry-leading vendor eliminates this problem and makes it easier for all users to get up and running quickly with the features they need. This expedites ROI and allows you to start making data-informed decisions right out of the gate.


  • Pre-Built Integrations. The explosive growth of wearables and new monitoring and measurement technology means there are more potential inputs than ever before. With every new device your department adds, you’ll need a new integration point for your human performance solution. A trusted vendor will have already developed stable integrations for commonly used performance, health, and medical data sources, removing the burden from your staff and allowing you to realize the benefits of new technologies more quickly.


  • Leverage Experience. Fusion Sport has put tens of thousands of hours into developing, customizing, and deploying solutions for elite sport, research, military, government, and corporate organizations. We’ve learned best practices from hundreds of high-performing organizations across the world. Even if your needs and use case seem unique, we’ve likely worked with a customer with similar challenges and goals. This experience helps us stand up a solution that does everything you need it to (and probably some things you haven’t even considered) much faster than you could using your in-house resources.



There’s certainly an abundance of self service no-code/low-code platforms available to innovators. We expect this trend will continue. From commercial products such as PowerBI and Tableau to open-source options such as R and Python, power users and data scientists can create custom reports at will.

The challenges, however, lie in the often forgotten yet vitally important aspects of 3rd party integration, security, role-based access control, and scalability. Exciting innovation and rapid progress give way to administrative headaches, file size issues, technical debt, and overall solution fragility.

For organizations who desire this agility without the risks and technical debt, a rapidly emerging trend is to combine an off-the shelf human performance platform or AMS with one or more reporting or analytics options. The human performance platform/AMS does the heavy backend lifting, allowing the trailblazers to use a range of custom tools for front end analysis and analytics. The organization is protected from security and scalability risks, and the innovators can experiment with the latest tools without building a house of cards.

The key here is ensuring the human performance platform provider has invested in developing a mature and reliable API (Application Programming Interface) that will facilitate an open philosophy without hindering innovation. The devil is in the details, so do your homework – if you do, you can have your cake and eat it too.



It isn’t impossible to build and maintain a homegrown performance platform. But doing so will probably take much more time, effort, and money than you expect. What’s more, you’ll likely have less of an impact because you’ll spend time developing and maintaining your solution instead of using it to help make better decisions that improve performance, reduce injury, and speed time to recover.

A proven system like Smartabase provides lower total cost of ownership, decreases your risk, and helps you deliver better outcomes to those you serve. If your staff still wants the ability to experiment and innovate with 3rd party tools, then we recommend you take the hybrid approach.




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