Understanding the differences between closed and open tech stack ecosystems and the impact on your operations as a fitness facility.
As the fitness industry rapidly shifts from sweating with steel to increasingly digitized and smart business models, operators must learn to wear many hats, including that of a chief technology officer (CTO).
A CTO is responsible for strategically managing new and current technologies, all the policies governing those technologies, and connecting tech-related decisions to a business’s commercial goals.
One critical consideration in your part-time CTO role is deciding whether your tech stack is an open or closed ecosystem. Your ecosystem is the sum of all tech-driven parts of your fitness business and can range from member management systems to connected hardware on your fitness floor. Depending on how you design these systems will determine how readily you can tackle new business challenges, how your daily operations function and how easily you can adapt to future technological changes.
So, what are the key differences?
- Closed ecosystem: A technology platform that only allows hardware, software and services compatible with a specific platform. In basic terms — a single vendor solution.
- Open ecosystem: A technology platform that actively supports integrating other technologies, third-party services and hardware.
So, what’s better?
It depends on your goals and operational capacity.
An open ecosystem will allow being maximally creative in how you design your club concept, and how you can create great workout experiences using cutting-edge innovations to wow your members. It does come with the added effort of implementing these technologies, educating yourself and your staff on them, and ensuring you do not overwhelm members with frequent changes, endless features and functionalities.
A closed ecosystem on the other hand, will limit your ability to adapt to innovations rapidly and what equipment, software and services you can offer in your club. The upside, however, is less operational and technical risks, more stability and less tech overhead to manage in your facility.
So at the end of the day, it will come down to your philosophy and expectations for the future. Do you want to be innovative, cutting-edge and flexible? Or highly reliable and dependent? Do you think the current fitness market will be conservative, stable and slow to change? Or will it rapidly innovate and you need a tech stack that allows you to keep pace?
Without providing a definitive answer for you – let me just grab my MiniDisc player and listen to the soundtrack of my favorite VHS video from Blockbuster while I think on it – oh wait, they’re all gone.