Taking Australia’s high-performance swimming to the next level with embedded analytics

This is a guest post by Swimming Australia.

Swimming Australia is the highest governing body for swimming in the nation, with nearly 1,000 clubs and 90,000 registered members nationally. Its primary vision is to create a nation of swimmers admired by the world. Two years ago, Swimming Australia established a Performance Insights team to explore data reporting and insights to help improve coach and athlete performance across the country.

In this post, we discuss how Swimming Australia uses Amazon QuickSight to provide performance analytics for athletes and coaches.

Manual reports prevent data-driven action

High-performance sport is rooted in data. For athletes—and even coaches—to improve, they need access to relevant data insights, training materials, and dedicated development plans. But that’s not easy when all of your users sit in their own organizations and are dispersed across the country.

Over the years, we made numerous attempts to produce sports data dashboards for our swimmers and coaches. We had a centralized data lake for all of the nation’s competitive swimming data, but turning that data into actionable insights for athletes and coaches was a chore. Back then, we had to rely on manual data crunching and reporting. Many of the reports that staff did for coaches were built manually and handed out on a case-by-case basis. It wasn’t scalable—especially since we had limited resources available to us.

We had another business intelligence (BI) tool initially. However, we never got great engagement because of the licensing. It was a standalone tool outside of any platform. No one could remember how to access it, which meant it fell back on performance staff to print PDFs or make their own Excel reports.

We knew we needed a way to automate data analysis and reporting for everyone at our high-performance training hubs.

Performance analytics, made accessible with QuickSight

As a precursor to working with QuickSight, we engaged AWS Professional Services to develop a progressive web application called Lane4. This application was devised to be a single pane of glass for coaches, offering coaching resources, training videos, and QuickSight dashboards for accessible, embedded analytics. We were able to drive adoption after we used QuickSight to create a self-serve platform for trainers.

We chose QuickSight for a number of reasons, but the most important were:

  • The ability to effortlessly embed analytics within our Lane4 portal
  • Seamless user access without the need for separate credentials
  • Flexible usage-based pricing saves money over fixed licensing and reduces administrative overheads
  • Seamless integration with our existing data lake

With QuickSight dashboards embedded into Lane4, users are able to visualize crucial results data from a variety of sources, including domestic and international results. Coaches are able to pull insight from rankings, analyze athlete progression, and identify areas for improvement and tactics that work best. With this data, coaches can pivot their strategies where necessary and make informed decisions to help athletes meet their target times.

One feature we’re particularly pleased with is Lane4’s embedded training videos feature. Visual demonstrations are crucial in sport; by having videos available to all users on demand, Lane4 allows us to scale up our operations without the need for more resources. If we have video available for a result or skill stored in Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), we can link the video into the QuickSight dashboards so coaches can seamlessly navigate to the video.

After Swimming Australia built their data lake, they needed a solution for coaches and athletes to visualize and query the data. QuickSight provided Swimming Australia with a flexible way to display our data to the top coaches and athletes at Australian Swimming.

For example, the following dashboard shows links to videos stored in Amazon S3. Users can choose the camera icon to open the video.

A closer look at Lane4, with embedded analytics by QuickSight

Lane4 provides coaches and support staff with up-to-date insights on competitors throughout the season, which makes it easy to benchmark and track progress. The insights visuals also make it straightforward to provide context to dashboards and pull out and display the most important information.

Lane4 primarily pulls data from our data lake. We use AWS Glue to create and maintain a data catalog, with everything stored in Amazon S3. We also use some static resources, such as Excel files. We are able to connect with any of our partners that use Snowflake.

QuickSight also makes it straightforward to give access to authorized users. With the AWS ProServ engagement, we developed a portal that allows users to access QuickSight securely. This means we can embed dashboards as resources and control access to users depending on their roles. We use Sport Connect as an identity provider, along with an Amazon Cognito user pool. With these, users can use their respective organizational login details rather than having another user name and password to remember.

The following screenshot shows our QuickSight dashboards hub hosted within Lane4.

The following screenshot shows an example of rankings showing the top two per nation.

The following dashboard allows users to pull athlete data by event and course.

The following screenshot shows the insights of top athlete improvements.

The following screenshot shows the individual event progression with qualifying standards for our national teams.

Unlocking high-performance insight with a better UX

With QuickSight, we’ve been able to deliver faster insights to all our coach partners and performance support staff across Australia. We have been able to deliver insights with just 1–2 people. Many of the reports that staff were doing for coaches that they were manually inputting data for have become automated and available to all of our high-performance training system. Coach satisfaction has improved significantly, and we no longer need to devote resources to manual reporting processes.

  • Faster insights – With QuickSight, we can deliver insights faster through dedicated dashboards—and serve them to the right users with role permissions. We can quickly edit via a well-designed authoring UI and republish instantly. The ability to create and modify custom SQL datasets and join within the UI means we don’t need underlying AWS Glue jobs to be updated.
  • Better user experience – Having all necessary information in a single place enables coaches and staff to get to the information they need, faster. Dynamic dashboards and embedded videos also add an extra layer of interactivity and value. The authoring interface has allowed us to respond to coach requests with same-day turnaround or even while they’re on the phone. Custom queries and the ability to join datasets and republish what we choose from an analysis means we can surface insights quickly without having to modify underlying ETL processes.
  • Collaborative analytics – We’ve found it incredibly useful that we can co-author analyses and dashboards collaboratively, from wherever we are in the country. With the 90% savings on infrastructure and licensing, and the value coaches see from having data available, we can look at growing our data resources. Due to the granular permissions and annual authoring licenses, we can safely let other authors in from across the network to build and publish resources.

Going forward, we’re supremely confident that Lane4 will help us deliver greater athlete performance and assist in our objectives of creating a nation of admirable swimmers—both professionally and at the grassroots level.

We embedded QuickSight into our custom-built online portal Lane4, and it’s sparked a data-driven decision-making culture on the Australian Swimming Team. Its lightning fast insights and intuitive analytics are propelling us forwards into performance by design at Swimming Australia.

What’s next?

Our coaches naturally have a lot of specific questions, and they often want answers quickly. For that reason, we think our next step will be to embed the QuickSight natural language querying capability, Amazon Q in QuickSight, so users can frame their questions in natural language and get instant answers back from the app itself. Less data-savvy users will have an effortless, intuitive way to get the answers they need, improving adoption rates.

We’re confident that this ability to get instantaneous answers to questions means coaches will ask more questions, so they can get the information they need to plan for performance.

Get started with QuickSight

Embedding QuickSight into our own application made it possible for us to deliver transformative insights and relevant information across the nation with ease.

With QuickSight, we can scale our operations and assist coaches and staff—at a low cost to serve. We’re excited for the future and what new features like Amazon Q will unlock.

To learn more about how QuickSight can help your business create exciting new applications, improve cost-effectiveness and scalability, and democratize data insights, visit Amazon QuickSight.

About the author

Ian Morrow is General Manager of Performance Insights & Technology at Swimming Australia. He leads a small team of data professionals to provide an ecosystem for insights, elevating high performance swimming in Australia by informed decision making.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/business-intelligence/taking-australias-high-performance-swimming-to-the-next-level-with-embedded-analytics/