SCGA hiccups with migration to GHIN handicap system
- Created on Thursday, 07 January 2010 18:20
Let me preface by saying that I'm not being critical of the SCGA because I'm out to get them or for some other silly reason (like a personal vendetta). I'm posting this because it's a classic example, in my opinion, of what's wrong with software development and technology operations in companies whose focus is something else (like playing golf in this case).
In 2008, the Southern California Golf Association (SCGA) decided that they would migrate away from the system that they'd been using for years to keep track of people's golf scores and golf handicaps (not handicap in terms of disability but a means of ranking golfers of different abilities so that they can complete against one another on a somewhat equal playing level).
Previously, players can post scores at the golf course or online and see how they stack up against their peers using a system managed by a company called Integrated Data Corporation (IDC), a small company whose only product was the handicap system the SCGA used. It wasn't perfect, but it worked.
So months go by, assumably they're working on the migration. Finally, we learn that they're migrating to the new system on or around Jan 1st (first mistake). The new system is called GHIN and is operated by the United States Golf Association (USGA) - a huge organization that represents golf in America, runs the US Open and other major amateur golf tournaments and has more money than they know what to do with. On the cover, this sounds great. However, as we come to find out, this didn't go so well. Here's a copy of the letter that I wrote to their handicap director, France Nee.
Congrats on completing the migration to the GHIN system. I'm sure it was a lot of work and you're happy to have this behind you. But I must say, there were some things that were not done properly, including the migration of data. Here is a list of what I discovered:
- It appears as if all of my casual rounds that I posted over the Internet came across as TI or Tournament Internet rounds in the GHIN system. This is a very bad mistake in mapping the IDC and GHIN data as exceptional tournament rounds can impact one's handicap and effect future tournament play.
- All of my score history prior to my last 20 rounds appear to be lost (at least, it seems as if they weren't migrated over to the GHIN system). With the prior IDC system, I was able to see scores from prior years, including the dates played, how many rounds I played for the year and more. I loved seeing and keeping record of this history of my golf game and now it is lost (or is it?).
- All of my index history prior to the last 12 months is gone too. Once again, sad that I cannot track my progression (or regression, haha) over the years.
- The course names for the rounds that did transfer over are missing.
I've worked in the software development industry for years, so I know how things can go wrong. I worked for REALTOR.com for 7 years, where we handled data mapping and migration projects for over 900 different MLSs on a daily basis. I now work for FOX in one of their online interactive divisions and I've been defining, specifying, designing and building online user experiences for more than 10 years. In short, I have a feeling for what goes on and wish that I could have helped in some way. Maybe it's not too late!
Are any of these issues going to be addressed?
As you can see, it didn't go well. I was actually rather nice in this email (there's more that went wrong). So here are some takeaways and lessons learned:
- Don't do any major project over a holiday. The data migration piece of this project kicked off just after Christmas and was finally completed on the 5th of Jan. Certainly, people are away on vacation, distracted cause family is visiting, drunk off egg nog, whatever. Wrong time to make this major change.
- Consult your users or in this case, your dues paying members. I never received an email or letter stating the features that I would have liked to see maintained, features they could have improved upon, or killed or new features that would be nice to have. No survey. Nothing.
- Don't digress. Data loss is not acceptable, especially when for some people, this is the only record they have of their golf rounds. I'm a pack rat. I have every score card of every round of golf I've played for the last 15 years. Most do not.
- If you're going to try to improve something (assuming that this is the reason for the change), make an impression. Make it better... an actual improvement! Like I said, the new Website managed by the GHIN also blows and feels old. There are so many "Web 2.0" golf sites out there, like www.oobgolf.com and www.golfshot.com, that are doing great things for golf using the Internet and Web-based technology. Partner with these folks and at least use their great products and user experiences as examples of what is possible.
- Where are the FAQs? No FAQ was provided, neither on the SCGA Website nor via email or snail mail, for members regarding what changed. Yes, they communicated updates via email regarding the handicap system migration. That was nice but not enough. Not everyone gets email, especially the old baby boomers that most likely make up a huge chunk of their membership.