Communications of the Association for Information Systems


USA Swimming (USAS) is the National Governing Body for the sport of swimming, one of more than 40 National Governing Bodies for amateur sports in the United States. Their mission is, in part, to "administer competitive swimming in accordance with the Amateur Sports Act", and to "provide programs and services for our members, supporters, affiliates and the interested public" The USAS membership community consists of athletes, non-athletes, and clubs. One of the most important functions USAS performs is to gather and maintain information on members in all categories. Maintaining individual swimmers' times in sanctioned meets, for example, forms the basis for swimmers to be ranked nationally. The responsibility for the gathering of data is relegated to 2,800 clubs and 59 local swimming committees scattered across the US. In their previous system, data needed for the USAS master databases was gathered by the clubs and sent to the local swimming committees, which consolidated the data and forwarded it to the national headquarters in Colorado Springs. Unfortunately, by 2002, it became clear that the hodgepodge of different hardware platforms and software used by the clubs and local swimming committees made the data gathering process ripe for errors, which resulted in unreliable data in multiple database systems at USAS headquarters. This case describes the process USAS management followed to establish and manage the development of a new system whose principal features include a new centralized database with a pre-posting "holding tank" for data cleansing as well as a Web portal providing valuable new functionality to the user community. The project involved significant risks, not the least of which was the widely dispersed user community. Risks were mitigated by the development of a prototype and by engaging an independent verification and validation firm. The new system achieved the benefits that USAS projected when the project was first conceived. The complicated technical infrastructure was replaced by a Web-based architecture that provides faster and more reliable service to the USAS community at a lower cost. The problem of inaccuracies in the data caused by data being stored in multiple databases was eliminated with the establishment of the new centralized database and the "holding tank's" data cleansing capabilities. Users at USAS headquarters and in the field embraced the new system because it simplified the data gathering process and greatly improved the reliability of the information they obtain from the centralized database. Further, the Web-based portal provides a stable operating environment for day-to-day operations and a platform that allows adding enhancements easily to the system.