Product innovation is more than creating something ‘new’, or even ‘wow’. It’s about applying better solutions. Such solutions may be in reaction to new requirements, but more often than not, innovation addresses existing needs, often unarticulated.
It was in unarticulated needs that sports recruitment start-up Profile 90 saw an opportunity. The founders; Trevor keane and Dr Jag Basra sought to disrupt an industry that operated according to instinct, hunches and gut feeling. Their innovative idea was to apply science and big data to help sports recruiters to reduce the costs of first team player recruitment, both by making the process more efficient, but also more effective (selecting the best players for trials). Key to this was understanding the needs of the various parties involved in the process.
Zoosh worked with Profile 90 to understand the unarticulated market need and identify opportunities for effective innovation. The Zoosh team, alongside Jag and Trev, spent weeks speaking to talent managers, scouts, players and clubs about their their daily tasks and workflows. Getting into the field (literally) helped to really understand the users, their reliance on legwork and gut instinct and their passion and devotion to the game.
The research highlighted how the documentation process used by sports scouts and talent managers was inefficient and unreliable. Subjective assessments were being documented in a low-tech, ad-hoc manner on notepads, scrap drawings and in voice memos. For clubs deciding to take on players, there was no way of comparing referrals or even verifying that players were observed by the scout first hand. A key insights was that the scientific insights and big data should augment (not replace) the existing process, both to ensure user adoption, but also to utilise the merits of the more subjective ‘gut’ approach.
Articulating user needs resulted in a transformative digital solution to the problems of traditional sports talent scouting. A mobile experience supports psychometric testing early in the process so that scouts can focus on players with the right mindset. Scouts and talent managers can use a mobile app and a desktop site to manage their workflow. Existing reporting methods are supported with screens for making drawings and taking notes. One feature allows the scout to record whether or not they got a ‘gut feeling’. Data collection is improved with scales for scouts to score technical, tactical and physical attributes of players. For clubs, this means being able to compare like-for-like when deciding which players to invest in. Having the right data means that they can cut down on the costs of selecting the wrong players. It’s game changing.
Designs for the re-imagined experience were captured in a clickable prototype made by the Zoosh team, which was used to demonstrate the product to potential customers. Using only this prototype - without any code - Profile 90 were able to attract ten paying customers, in Ireland, the UK, China, Africa and North America. It’s proof that early intervention of UX research and design in product development can help to qualify the proposition and propel a new venture towards success.