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What businesses can learn from bats and stats

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I tend to get caught up in the thrill of the Six Nations, despite being a rather mediocre fan of rugby (at best).

Like any other sport we watch on TV these days, we’re bombarded with statistics – possession, territory, metres run, tackles made and so on.

The techie in me got me wondering about how they capture and collect this data?

Is there a team of people keying in information? Or is it collected using automated video analysis – after all they can immediately show on screen the distance between the ball and the posts.

I’m a massive fan of Formula 1– no doubt fellow fans are getting excited for the start of the season next weekend. And they use sophisticated telemetry designed by incredibly clever engineers.

It also got me wondering about the real value of all this data that’s collected. It’s certainly not done simply to keep us entertained or give the pundits something to talk about.

British Cycling (who I’m proud to say are a TSG customer) work with huge amounts of information collected during the course of training and competition and it’s clearly been a major factor in the incredible success enjoyed by the team at the Olympics.

It’s all about competitive advantage; and anyone who’s seen the film Moneyball starring Brad Pitt will appreciate that effective use of data can blow conventional wisdom out of the water.

Based on Michael Lewis’s book, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, the film tells the story of how Oakland Athletics baseball team used ‘sabermetrics’ – the specialised analysis of baseball through statistics that measure in-game activity – to assemble a team for $40 million that was able to compete against the might of those with a salary budget three times the amount, such as the New York Yankees.

As a result, all of the big teams have taken on dedicated sabermetrics analysts and sadly that’s had a negative impact on the Athletics' fortunes.

Whilst I don’t profess to know much about baseball, there are clearly lessons to be learned.

It’s always a challenge to stay ahead of the competition, especially as they adopt the technologies and techniques that you’ve already implemented, so it’s critical that you never stand still and always keep moving forward.

More importantly, it’s essential to understand what data and information is of value and find ways to capture and use it effectively and efficiently to give your business competitive advantage.

So whilst it’s fascinating to know that England made 144 tackles against Italy and Ireland spent 63% in France’s half during the second half, what would be more interesting is to understand and learn from the way they use the knowledge to transform the way they work.

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