Case Study

CrossFit: Digital operations roadmap

Project Summary

CrossFit is undergoing a transformation, with a renewed focus on supporting professional trainers who can promote objective, scientifically validated, healthy lifestyles and diets.  Over the years as CrossFit grew exponentially, they developed a complex and diverse technical ecosystem to manage a wide variety of business activities that ranged from ESPN televised events to a global in-person training capability, to facilitated accredited online learning. All of these capabilities and systems were built with particular business goals in mind, however as the business re-orients and focuses on its mission the question arises: can any of these systems be consolidated, and do we have the right ecosystem to support our new focus?

To help answer this question, we created a comprehensive current state inventory of all existing systems, services, partner solutions, and technical solutions recently in use at CrossFit.  This served as a foundation for us to create a future state vision for how this ecosystem could evolve, as well as practical, stair-stepped recommendations for iterative evolution of the current state into the future without a dramatic “lift and shift” technical investment.

The Challenge

Technical operations model

Crossfit must define a new technical operations model and enterprise architecture that will allow a small, dynamic, and focused team of in house information systems employees to efficiently support core business functions.  This will require identifying as many opportunities as possible to replace custom-built solutions that require internal expertise and effort to maintain as possible with Commercial or Off the Shelf solutions that free up developer attention for CrossFit business-specific technical challenges.

Support CrossFit’s training business

One of CrossFit’s key business functions is to support the creation of professional trainers around the globe, who can help promote health and wellness.  To do this, CrossFit needs a technical infrastructure capable of global payments, multi-time zone event scheduling and staffing, as well as managing the scoring and certification of training participants.  

Enhance direct audience engagement

CrossFit’s owner is one of the key communicators to the CrossFit community, with a need to be able to directly communicate and interact with both the most dedicated CrossFit supporters as well as the wider community of those involved in the promotion and roadblocking of health.  CrossFit needs a flexible, highly responsive, and very secure audience outreach channel that allows them to communicate clearly, without relying on third-party networks such as Facebook or Instagram.

Provide great customer experience for CrossFit’s affiliates

Some of the most dedicated and important trainers in the community also run gyms (boxes in CrossFit’s parlance) that are officially licensed by CrossFit.  While the boxes are physical locations, the Affiliates are trainers themselves, and often employ other CrossFit certified trainers. The ecosystem needs to support high quality, low friction, customer service for these Affiliates, regardless of what country or timezone the Affiliate operates in.

Our Approach

Stakeholder interviews

At the beginning of this project, we conducted senior staff interviews to explore how each department defines its goals, audiences, and outreach needs. We asked them about major challenges their team faces to achieve these goals, the systems, and tools they use in pursuit of these goals, and what, if any, requests they had for change.  These interviews are both highly informative and contextualizing for us, but they also help begin a change management and consensus-building process. By gathering inputs and feedback on day one, we help everyone contribute towards a shared solution rather than competing against an external recommendation.

Technical ecosystems review

Working with CrossFit’s technical team, we reviewed all systems that received active development from their tech team and all web-domains receiving public web-traffic in the past 18 months. This approach helped us obtain a holistic view of CrossFit’s systems and how we can ensure that the systems, staff, and the solutions they have deployed all make sense together. It also provided useful framing for “how important” everything we captured or documented was, as development activity was a useful proxy for business focus or feature requests. These technical systems were categorized by both the business unit that most heavily leveraged these systems, as well as the type of system and the audience outreach experiences they supported.  

Technical processes, staffing, and capacity review

For CrossFit to have the best-fit technology platform for the kind of outreach they want to conduct, we worked with both business owners and their tech team to understand: the training & certification processes, how trainers become Affiliates, how Affiliates interact with CrossFit year after year, and how the content creation and publication workflow for CrossFit.com.  All of these processes helped us understand where technology was helping, or missing opportunities to help, support these business processes and understand where and why different custom solutions had been created. 

Unlocking the Value

Technical Operations Model & Architecture

Working our way from the Enterprise down to the business units, we proposed a new structure for the tech team, a service model for how they could support the business units, and a product management approach for governing the ecosystem as a whole.  This new model optimizes the value generated by internal resources by focusing their efforts on business problems unique to CrossFit while allowing for the frequent and risk-managed use of external resources to support C/OTS solutions.

Global Training & Certifications

We provided a roadmap for evolving the global training & certification infrastructure from tightly coupled, internally managed, custom solutions, to a hybrid approach that moved several key functional components to centralized, shared, off the shelf commercial solutions.  We also provided suggestions for how global payments could be better supported, and several process workflow bottlenecks could be addressed.

Audience Engagement that leverages existing investments

After examining the CrossFit.com ecosystem, we were able to identify a number of custom elements that could be sunset and others that could be replaced with C/OTS solutions that would help free up developer focus and attention to service high priority development requests.  As is often the case, we found that the website technology itself (WordPress CMS with a decoupled React.JS design-system driven front end) was not as big a blocker for outreach as the processes and systems surrounding it were.

Customer service architecture

We were able to identify a number of areas where the evolutionary nature of the technical ecosystem had resulted in customer interactions and customer data being housed in different systems. This created a situation where no one system at CrossFit had a 360-degree view of customer interactions with the business.  We proposed a new customer-centric data architecture for the use of CRM and ERP at CrossFit that would create a centralized “summary” record of each customer, while still allowing business-specific systems to manage and maintain the process-specific detailed information about a particular customer interaction. This allows the business to keep customer records focused and easy to understand while allowing business-specific systems to remain mostly decoupled and only lightly integrated with the central CRM.