AWS Cloud Enterprise Strategy Blog

Stats Perform Is Innovating by Working Backwards with AWS

Good inventors and designers deeply understand their customer. They spend tremendous energy developing that intuition. They study and understand many anecdotes rather than only the averages you’ll find on surveys. But you, the product or service owner, must understand the customer, have a vision, and love the offering. A remarkable customer experience starts with heart, intuition, curiosity, play, guts, taste. You won’t find any of it in a survey.

—Jeff Bezos

Introduction by Bryan Landerman

Amazon Web Services is helping customers migrate to the cloud, reskill their people, and modernize their applications and infrastructure. A move to the cloud can allow an organization to drive automation, create efficiencies, and increase speed and agility. While the cloud may seem like an infrastructure or IT concern, the entire C-suite finds value in the cloud through rapid experimentation and innovation with reduced cost and reduced financial risk.

In this post we’ll hear from Nancy Hensley, the Chief Product and Marketing Officer at Stats Perform (a Vista Equity Partners company). Nancy will discuss Stats Perform’s recent collaboration with AWS, where they used Amazon’s “working backwards” process and the AWS cloud to deliver PressBox: a new platform with efficient user workflows and a set of integrated tools that supports their customers’ goals of improving and enhancing fan engagement in the dynamic and fast-moving world of 24-7 global sports.

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In the words of Nancy Hensley, Chief Product and Marketing Officer at Stats Perform

At Stats Perform, the SportsTech leader, we’re committed to investing in new technology and innovations that improve the way sports are understood, predicted, and experienced. We do this by building exceptional customer products and experiences and combining our unique data and some of the best talent in sports data science. Despite our extensive experience in the space, we still ask ourselves “Do we really understand what our customers want? Are we prioritizing the right enhancements and features? Do we understand their biggest pain points?”

“We’ve had three big ideas at Amazon that we’ve stuck with, and they’re the reason we’re successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient.”

—Jeff Bezos

When I joined Stats Perform last year, it was at a pivotal moment for the company. The formation of my role crystalized the company’s shift from a data- and technology-driven organization to being customer and product led. On the surface this may seem like a natural shift, but like most change, the people, process, and behavioral change is often incredibly difficult. This change becomes harder if there isn’t a framework or prescriptive approach to the new way of working. I like the “working backwards” process because it can help you build the right product and nail product-market fit, and it’s structured with simple tools to better understand customer needs and pain points. While customer-centered innovation was a new approach for us, I knew that being able to experience this new way of working firsthand would fuel the shift and create momentum for us. We turned to our partners at AWS for their experience in working backwards from the customer, their technology, and their outside perspective. What followed was a compact engagement, which AWS calls digital innovation, to design and deliver the initial release of the new PressBox platform.

Taking a Different Approach

Sports media organizations face a near-insurmountable challenge of producing high-quality analysis, graphics, video, and more within moments during a live event. With over 40 years in business, we came into the engagement with a good understanding of the customer problem: video clip discovery was challenging, tools weren’t integrated, and common tasks were time consuming and cumbersome, among other things. By working backwards from the customer and interviewing our product users, we discovered new pain points and opportunities. For example, our customers were having trouble finding the signal through the noise. We were providing a vast library of information and assets, but it was difficult to distill it down into a timely and relevant highlight or insight. The user interviews not only validated our thinking but also expanded our understanding of the challenges and helped us prioritize improvements.

In the past we would have taken our understanding of the opportunities and start building. We would create a roadmap and continue building. While this approach has led us to build successful solutions, thanks to our talented team, we also built products that didn’t grow as quickly as we hoped—we didn’t nail product-market fit. We found that our engineering teams were hungry for direction and context. They wanted to deeply understand why and for what: “Who am I building this for? What problem am I really trying to solve?” They loved the idea of product-market fit.

Trust the Method

Going in, I told the team to trust the method because, naturally, some were skeptical: how could a designer help us figure this out? It turns out you don’t have to be an expert in product but instead have expertise in fleshing out what the customer wants and needs. While cloud technologies allow us to build solutions faster, Amazon’s working backwards process helps us ensure we’re building the right thing by quickly identifying needs and testing them. The faster you can get feedback from customers, the faster you can learn and improve, and the faster that MVP, the minimum viable product, will turn into your next innovation.

Our experience working with AWS was excellent. We appreciated their methods, and they brought the right team forward, supplementing our team to fill gaps in our skillset. Their working backwards process led us to build a better platform and set of products by gaining a deeper understanding of our customers—and it also accelerated our ability to do so. The initial MVP was delivered months faster than normal with the help of the AWS Professional Services team.

It’s important to get quick and early wins when driving change in an organization with as much history and success as Stats Perform. This approach allowed us to do just that. On May 4, 2021, we launched the PressBox platform with two new applications—PressBox Live (a real-time sports media dashboard) and PressBox Video (a personal video content assistant). As Amazonians will tell you, the launch is the starting line, not the finish line. Our customers enjoy the new platform and their feedback helps shape the future of the platform—and we’ll continue to work backwards from our customers to nail product-market fit!