Software On Tap. Part 2

17May

While the ASP subscription model has become popular with medium to small businesses, industry analysts predict that all sizes of businesses will eventually turn to this model. The most commonanalysts  reasons cited include that an ASP offers the following benefits:

* Allows business to focus on core competency. This is especially true in the fitness industry, which is predominately a service industry. Key personnel are free to work on developing first-class member services.

* Lowers total cost of ownership (TCO) for software. Many times managers mistakenly factor in only the initial costs when calculating the expense of new technology. Studies show that maintenance costs represent 80 percent of the TCO, and the maintenance portion is the area that ASPs address most directly.

* Helps with the shortage of information technology (IT) professionals. There are far more jobs than there are people to fill them. It is becoming increasingly difficult, if not impossible, for non-technology businesses to attract and retain good IT staff.

* Reduces investment risk in the rapidly changing technology sector. Let ASPs keep pace with technology advancements and, if they don’t, you can change ASP vendors much easier than you can retool your entire IT staff and infrastructure.

Electronic bonding

An important usage for ASPs will be for facilities to use their software to create what is known as an “electronic bond” with members. The electronic bond is created when a member grows dependent on an online or automated service, such as automated fitness programming or program scheduling. The bond is so powerful that the member wouldn’t dream of going back to the old way of doing things and will more than likely remain loyal until a competitor has created an even better service. This bond can help you to build your services around the lifestyles and needs of your members and, therefore, tap into a very lucrative, loyal membership base. If the member builds equity within the service, the bond is strengthened. All of this adds up to making it tougher (in a positive way) for a member to simply walk away.

As you Web-enable your services with a view toward creating this electronic bond, you should understand the stages of sophistication that Websites typically follow. From a business perspective, the Internet has progressed from static content to dynamic/interactive content to a business application. This progression applies not only to the use of the Internet as a whole, but also seems to be the natural progression for individual business Website development. The primary goal of a business’ first Website is typically to simply exist on the Web. This is done by publishing several static pages of content that allow visitors to see who you are, what you do and why you are better than your competitors.

After many revisions to your static Website, you realize that you need additional attributes to give your visitors a reason to keep coming back. It is time to add some interactivity to your site. Now, in addition to static pages, you dynamically generate your content based on the selection and parameters that each visitor supplies. For example, a Web page that previously showed the date, time, location, skill level and instructor for each aerobics class can now allow visitors to browse them all and set some filter criteria to display only the classes that meet their needs (i.e, beginners’ aerobics on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday at 5 p.m. at the downtown facility). This type of dynamic content is easily generated from a database that you maintain on a daily basis. This is the stage of development that most Websites currently fall into.

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