Partner Integration Makes Club Management Platforms More Powerful

Technology integration has been used to make software platforms more versatile, but how does it work and when is it most effective?

A technology partner is a fellow product company that offers an integration to your product—or vice versa. Thus, “technology” partners are often referred to as “integration” partners. Think of how some accounting packages allow you to email documents for virtual signatures. That’s an example of one platform—the accounting system—integrating a software provider that offers electronic signatures. The goal is to make the accounting package more flexible and offer users more services.

The idea is to use integrations to provide as many services as possible through your platform, making you a “one-stop-shop” for your users.

“There are many software providers in the fitness industry, and many of them try to provide an inclusive, all-in-one approach,” notes Merissa Williams, client success and channel partner manager at Jonas Fitness, Inc. “While this ‘jack of all trades’ approach to software can be appealing to many club operators, it tends to be limiting in the long run. For example, does your club need rotating barcode functionality to minimize potential fraud and security risks? That all-in-one software that looked enticing may provide some sort of a ‘solution,’ but its functionality will be limited and provide no future options to partner and integrate with other leading business solutions that your club needs for long term growth. That's why it's important to look for software providers that openly offer the ability to integrate with others.”

What “Open” Means

So, how does the integration itself work? When Merissa refers to “open integration,” it’s about the underlying technology involved. It starts with an Application Programming Interface, or API. The API is the vehicle by which any application, regardless of its core technology, can communicate to another application via the target application's API. Because there are a wide range of technologies involved in integration, there must be a pathway on which they can connect. That pathway is the API. Think of it as a kind of “translator” between two applications that allows them to work together to achieve the desired outcome.

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Providers that utilize open APIs make that communication and integration easier. Open APIs define endpoint connections, operation parameters, authentication techniques, and things like contact information, terms of use, license, and more.

What can happen if an integration is poorly done?

“Any number of things could happen if an integration is not properly done,” says Tony Autin, Jonas Fitness president. “The most common is communication errors that prevent services from functioning as intended. That's why we dedicate a lot of time to developing our integrations with our partners and clients. One of my favorite technologist quotes is from Amazon CTO Werner Vogels, who said, ‘everything fails, all the time.’ Integrations are difficult, and it’s really about building application resiliency; the ability to change your application quickly to bounce back from failure.”

“The truth,” he adds, “is that any integration is imperfect from the start. They go through many life cycles including creation, testing, beta, early adoption, and a variety of other phases in their maturity. It can take time to find the perfect fit that meets every user’s needs.”

How Integrations Work at Jonas

Any integration at Jonas Fitness begins with a conversation.

“We start the process by talking to clients and learning their needs,” says Merissa. “Most are often solved with our existing channel partner integrations, but when it isn't, we begin other conversations with potential integration partners,” she says. “Some of these potential integration partners are within the fitness industry and some are outside it. Our goal is to not limit our customer’s—or our own—opportunities.”

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Once Jonas Fitness finds an integration solution, the process then transitions to development, which includes API documentation, technical calls, and the actual API implementation. During the process, Jonas holds monthly evaluation meetings with partners and clients that offers feedback designers can use to continually improve interfaces during the user testing phase.

“At first, this approach might seem slow for research and development teams,” says Tony. “But, over time, this actually helps them build software more quickly and implement it more smoothly. At the end of the day, our process results in streamlining how operators and members can access these programs and how operators can consolidate applications to save time and administrative costs. And members feel more connected with their club when the solutions they need are provided for them in one place.”

Jonas Fitness currently has hundreds of partnerships in place. The criteria they use to evaluate potential partners is fairly simple: Are they the best in their vertical? If not, do they offer something unique to the standard? If not, is a customer specifically asking for this partner?

“We’re looking for strong strategic partners that are focused on supporting our client’s goals, giving everyone the best opportunity for success,” adds Merissa. “Here at Jonas Fitness, our goal is to be the best all-around partner in the fitness industry, which in turn leads to increased benefits for our products, our partner relationships, and most importantly, our customers. Our API partnerships with each vertical’s leading providers give Jonas Fitness the ability to create the foundation and focus on updating and maintaining the core of who we are—a club management software and payment processor. Additionally, our partners are the best at what they do. They are masters in their respective fields and provide the best results for our clients.”

“At the end of the day,” she concludes, “our channel partner initiative is designed to provide operators with the best of all worlds: best-in-class club management software, secure payment processing, and state-of-the-art solutions that fit their exact needs.​​”

To learn more about Jonas Fitness’s solutions, visit their website.

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Jon Feld

Jon Feld is a contributor to Club Business International.