Turnkey Intelligence has always been in a unique position when it comes to technology in sports business. We obviously create and repurpose technology ourselves… but we also interface with all the industry’s major technologies on a deep level. A direct result of this is that for years, clients have asked our opinions on technology solutions.

About four years ago, we found ourselves bombarded with discussion about CRM systems, ticketing systems and dynamic pricing solutions. Countless clients were looking to take the next step and maximize efficiency by upgrading to more sophisticated solutions. We were happy to give our opinions and pass along what we were hearing day in and day out. However, to truly represent the opinions of those in the trenches, we decided to launch our first Data Systems Survey (for lack of a better name), an email survey that was completed by ticketing, marketing, sponsorship and CRM professionals in all of the country’s major professional sports.

The results were interesting, primarily because no one had ever collected data like this before. One particularly notable finding was that we saw properties making monetary investment in CRM systems but not a corresponding investment in headcount. Strange, right?

In years two and three of the Data Systems Study, we expanded the reach of the study beyond professional sports and began including collegiate athletics and performing arts. This allowed us to get a more representative sample of the entertainment industry. At this point, we were able to begin looking at trends over time, as the study had great year-over-year benchmark data.

We also expanded the study to include questions about social media usage, headcount focused on these specific areas, and organizational investment levels. In addition, we asked respondents to give their opinions of the most technologically sophisticated organizations in sports. As a direct result, I started receiving calls from individuals asking me for this data to use in their annual reviews as a way to show that they were “leading the pack” and should be rewarded for being recognized by their peers.

In January 2015, we launched our latest version of the Data Systems Study. Once again, our partners at Ticketmaster, Paciolan, Tickets.com, the NHL, NFL and MLS helped us distribute the survey (HUGE thanks to them). We had 463 respondents take the survey, representing NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, MLS, collegiate athletics and performing arts.

My biggest takeaway from the study is that the technology systems used within the sports industry are changing so fast that collecting data in January and distributing a report in March feels like we have already missed some things. This year, we did not include questions about marketing automation systems, loyalty platforms and data warehouses. We certainly could and should have; however, the players in this space seem to change weekly.

Technology in sports business is evolving rapidly. Investments in hardware, software and headcount are booming. Unfortunately, though, we are too frequently witnessing good sales pitches and good stories with very little substance behind them. I urge everyone to do their homework and ask questions to industry peers. Lean on your many vendors to make referrals. You will save yourself a lot of time and hardship.