TechSmith takes a startup approach to Coach's Eye mobile app


Brooks Andrus

   Brooks Andrus

Like many of life's most unexpected surprises, the Coach's Eye app began as an internal experiment--a shiny new idea from a fledgling internal mobile development group called Omega, champions of all things "bleeding edge" at TechSmith. At the time of its mental inception, Omega was on the lookout for opportunities to take advantage of the current renaissance of all things mobile technology--advancements in tactile user interface, the network stack and built-in video and camera device capabilities. Coach's Eye was one drop in a pool of possibilities, but it soon became our perfect storm.

Why Coach's Eye? We like sports--that's the easy answer. But, really the app floated to the top thanks to conversations we had with coaches. It turns out producing video--TechSmith's bread and butter and expertise--is way too hard for your average coach. Only well-funded or professional coaches have independent cameras to shoot film, computers to run the video editing software and the bandwidth to deliver feedback. They're coaches, not video pros. As a visual communications company, we saw this as a prime opportunity to marry our love of sports with our love of video. Coach's Eye was born.

Knowing very few mobile apps become big revenue generators for enterprise, we were hesitant to approach management with the concept. However, the sell was easy as our executives understood that mobile is a growing market, making the timing perfect to do something different and unexpected. For a visual communications brand like TechSmith, experimenting in mobile app development makes good business sense.

volleyball

Coach’s Eye's video recorder captures an athlete’s movement and action on the spot.

But Coach's Eye was more than just a product launch for us; it was a first step into a world of unlimited potential. The challenge was supporting the build internally, which we accomplished through the creation of a start-up environment within the walls of our mid-size software development company. We tapped our pool of nimble, high-velocity developers and tasked them with the hard deadline of getting Coach's Eye out the door and into the store in only four months. 

Next, it was time to overcome the barriers to product development. For example, our internal business cycle wasn't built for the pace of mobile, so we had to get comfortable building a long-term marketing strategy while the paint was still wet. Supporting a startup with an aggressive build goal within a mid-sized company was another barrier to completion, as was our relative inexperience in developing for the mobile market; we had to adapt quickly. Solving these issues wasn't pretty or easy at times, but the rewards were significant, extending the ROI of our effort beyond product revenue. We now champion the development of iOS 5 from within, helping to blaze the trail for future mobile app releases as we share critical iOS 5 learnings across all development teams and facilitate future entries into the mobile market.

With the build complete, we focused on promoting Coach's Eye in a way that balanced product speed-to-market with quality assurance. As user feedback is critical to the success of any product, we baked feedback channels into the loop, hardwiring app feedback through User Voice, directly integrating feedback opportunities on the Coach's Eye website and in the app itself, and through social media channels. Because the most valuable feedback comes from app users, we established a Coach's Eye beta testing program for coaches, athletes and parents and reached out to our existing 7 million customers, brand champions and global technology and education evangelists. Our launch day, Nov. 8, was a big win because Coach's Eye reached number one in the Sports app categories on the market, exceeding expectations.

basketball

The app lets you draw a line to show the proper angle or extension

What's next for Coach's Eye? We're working to expand both the app and the TechSmith cloud experience, making updates before year end so the user experience gets even better. We're also looking into industry-specific applications for Coach's Eye technology, such as "Surgeon's Eye" for the healthcare industry. We continue to spread the word about Coach's Eye, kicking off a "Bullpen" blog that includes tips from coaches, user-generated videos, practice drills for developing athletic skills and commentary on recent sports events. Since at heart we're a software development company, we'll also be posting about sports technology, Apple and mobile gadget news, thoughts related to app development and other assorted random nerdiness-- we hope you'll join us to witness the evolution of Coach's Eye!

Brooks Andrus is the CGL (Chief Grenade Launcher) of TechSmith Corporation. His team of developers created Coach's Eye, the first sports-themed iPhone application developed by TechSmith, which launched on November 8th. You can get updates on Coach's Eye news from the official Coach's Eye blog, like it on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CoachsEye or ‘Follow' it on Twitter @CoachsEye.

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