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Critical areas of management software systems community rec centers should be prioritizing.

Running a community rec center is complicated, and without a good management software solution, daily operations can become a logistical nightmare.

“Management software is always a hot topic as there are many hands moving in a hundred directions, managing lots of high-priority items,” said Rosie Turner, the director of marketing and communications at the Harrisburg Area YMCA in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Every facility operator should prioritize optimizing their system and staying on top of trends in management software because of its importance to modern rec center operations.

“There is no shortcut to making the right decision about software,” said Nate Valentin, the vice president of information technology for the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA in Tampa Bay, Florida. “I would prioritize open architecture, connectivity and security when it comes to your technology.”

The first step in optimizing your management software is building your system with open architecture. Having a system like this means you can switch, upgrade or integrate new components of your software easily.

According to Valentin, some organizations have found success using a “best in breed” approach to open architecture. “This means you go out and bring together the best payment processor, customer relationship management, etc., to run your organization,” he explained. “For this approach to work at scale, you need to be able to integrate your systems together.”

A key component to this strategy is having built-in connectors in major applications so they can pass information between each other.

“If you are exploring a solution that does not allow for connectivity to other applications, I would pause and make sure you have the internal resources to handle any additional work or development required to incorporate that system with your business,” said Valentin.

The next important area to examine is your internet connectivity. This may sound like a no-brainer, but fast and reliable Wifi is critical to any consumer experience. “Your internet probably needs to be faster — I’m not kidding,” said Valentin. “I fully believe the organizations that optimize for network speed and connectivity will have a disproportionate advantage over those that don’t.”

It’s important to constantly evaluate your network and make necessary adjustments. Valentin strongly recommended fiber connections for consistent download speeds; redundant networks in case of a carrier outage; access points to maintain consistent WiFi coverage, indoor and outdoor; and firewalls that handle current traffic and support future system growth.

According to Turner, all these components are critical to creating a seamless online experience for members. “Our customers are busy, mobile and want that Amazon experience when they engage with us online,” she said. “While your bottom line is important, it’s never a good choice to sacrifice the user experience due to cost.”

Another important area to optimize is your network security. It’s imperative to ensure your members’ information will be safe whenever they connect to your network.

“Membership comes with the responsibility of people’s personal information, so we have to evaluate the security of any system we might employ,” said Turner.

Do your homework and find the right security measures for your management software. “I highly recommend using a firewall that will monitor and restrict traffic for those on the network, but also can help secure access to your network,” advised Valentin. “Maintain short lease times and require members to rejoin your network each visit.”

Management software is critical to daily operations, and by carefully considering each of these three components, you’ll strengthen your system now and set it up for success in the future. 

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Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the former editor of Community Rec Magazine.

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