You can’t act on what you don’t see

Last weekend’s Masters golf tournament in Augusta was eventful for many reasons – youngest ever player, another so near yet so far for Lee Westwood, but I’m sure the instance most talked about was Tiger Woods’ two shot penalty for an improper drop.

It’s Tiger Woods so that’s interesting enough in itself, but the fact that technology played a part in the controversy raises another debate.

It was a TV viewer who initially alerted the rules committee to the drop and that it was two yards behind the spot it should have been taken from. Then media coverage in his interview afterwards raised further suspicion after Tiger admitted that he made the drop to give him the best possible advantage.

Changes to the rules on disqualification were made last year because of advances in video technology – had this happened on a previous occasion, Tiger would almost certainly have been removed from the tournament rather than handed a points penalty.  The new rule means that disqualification is not enforced if a player “is not aware of the factual circumstances of a breach”.  Murky waters indeed….

There’s no denying that technology has made its impact in the world of sport, but for the time being at least I think there is still a decent amount of unpredictability that sparks so much topical conversation.

Take cricket for instance. Hawk Eye technology has been around for a while for broadcast purposes, helping the TV viewer to side with or side against the umpire’s original decision. Now it is in effect a fourth umpire as each side gets two reviews per innings should they wish to question a crucial LBW dismissal.

If the team is right and the decision gets overturned, they keep that review for use later on if they need it. Get it wrong however, and it’s lost forever.

In tennis the same principle applies using Hawk Eye technology – each player gets three challenges per set (and an additional one if it goes to a tiebreak) to use on tight line calls when they feel rather robbed. Disappointingly this will probably result in fewer McEnroe “You cannot be serious” moments but there’s always a compromise.

My point here is that although technology has affected these sports, the ultimate decision always rests with a human being. They need to decide whether to risk losing one of their reviews or challenges, and the decision is only overturned if there is zero doubt that the original call was incorrect.

The English Premiere League, after much to-ing and fro-ing, has decided to bring in goal line technology for the 2013-14 season. This technology will notify the referee if the ball has crossed the line using vibrations and optical signals within one second.

Everybody can probably name instances where having goal line technology would have changed games, but importantly it’s only there to ensure that the original decision was correct.

As far as I know there are no plans to replicate the technology for every single decision and thus becoming a little like American football in that we have to stop play for pretty much anything you can think of – it’s there to support game changing scenarios such as goals.

If we think about this in a business context and how technology has made decisions easier, how many times have you used technology to help you make crucial decisions?

TSG recently worked with a customer to transform a paper-based change management system by introducing technology driven automation using Microsoft Sharepoint’s document management and Nintex workflow capabilities.

The new system has not only saved considerable time and resources within the process itself, but by building a dashboard to provide full visibility of change requests, the approvals board – the people responsible for deciding which requests are progressed – are able to make better informed decisions, more quickly, using real time information.

And that’s key – whether it’s on the sport field or in the meeting room, technology has to enhance the decision making process and improve productivity.

In the case of cricket and tennis – and of course, in Tiger’s situation – there remains a significant element of human judgement.

As far as football’s concerned, I’m pretty certain that football fans will be relieved that they don’t have to wait until the following Tuesday for a firm decision on whether the ball crossed the line or not.