Case Study: PlayHQ leverages graph technologies for sports administration

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Community sports are notorious for drowning administrators with paperwork, and graph technologies are being deployed to reduce this burden.

Digital Nation Australia recently spoke to Mark Macumber, head of technology at sportstech platform PlayHQ. The organisation focuses on community competition management and works with clients including Basketball Victoria, Cricket Australia, Netball Australia and the AFL.

According to Macumber, as the organisation felt the impact of a drop off in community sports due to Covid, leaders took the down-time to aggressively build out the platform.

“We could actually accelerate a lot of the platform build over time. That was, I guess, a positive out of Covid that we took and ran with. So we could really build and on-board people as quickly as possible, build new features and really build out the platform as much as we could with that going on,” he said.

Macumber said that contrary to popular belief, the sporting model is highly complex, which required a clear representation of the data.

“Graph technology came about because we certainly noticed that a lot of the representations of how the sporting organisations were structured did seem to represent a graph structure more than a traditional database relational structure.”

PlayHQ selected graph data platform vendor Neo4j to streamline the experience for customers.

According to Peter Philipp, Neo4j ANZ General Manager, “Graph data platforms can efficiently model complex networks of entities and their interrelationships, and uncover patterns that are difficult to detect using traditional representations  such as tables  that are great at collecting and processing data but miss the relationships between data points.”

After undergoing a proof of concept, PlayHQ deployed Neo4j to run its core competition management database in the cloud, allowing the business to scale and to meet growing customer demand.

“Neo has basically a schemeless design, which means it's really flexible with how you store manage the data inside of it. And that's allowed us to rapidly build out new features in the platform quickly. Its allowed a lot of flexibility for us,” said Macumber.

“Its got great performance profiles. So we can give a really great user experience by servicing the user's needs quickly, and managing them really well.”

According to Macumber, PlayHQ is also currently rethinking its internal data strategy and has selected Snowflake for its data management.

“It really felt like there was a lot of alignment between a start-up like us that was getting ready to shift into a big scale mode and Snowflake’s ability to go with us on that journey. They really were in tune to our needs from things like a cost perspective, from a scale perspective. And really importantly too, from a security perspective.”

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