Data is a Game Changer

Nowadays we hear a lot of chatter, rather reminiscent of the boisterous bluster of sports talk radio debates, about the potential of big data and its related technologies to enable predictive and real-time analytics and, by leveraging an infrastructure provided by the symbiotic relationship of cloud and mobile, serve up better business performance and an enhanced customer experience.

Sports have always provided great fodder for the data-obsessed with its treasure troves of statistical data dissecting yesterday’s games down to the most minute detail, which is called upon by experts and amateurs alike to try to predict tomorrow’s games as well as analyze in real-time the play-by-play of today’s games.  Arguably, it was the bestselling book Moneyball by Michael Lewis, which was also adapted into a popular movie starring Brad Pitt, that brought data obsession to the masses, further fueling the hype and overuse of sports metaphors such as how data can be a game changer for businesses in any industry and of any size.


The Future is Now Playing on Center Court

Which is why it is so refreshing to see a tangible real-world case study for big data analytics being delivered with the force of an Andy Murray two-handed backhand as over the next two weeks the United States Tennis Association (USTA) welcomes hundreds of thousands of spectators to New York City’s Flushing Meadows for the 2013 U.S. Open tennis tournament.  Both the fans in the stands and the millions more around the world will visit, via the web or mobile apps, in order to follow the action, watch live-streamed tennis matches, and get scores, stats, and the latest highlights and news thanks to IBM technologies.

Before, during, and after each match, predictive and real-time analytics drive IBM’s SlamTracker tool.  Before matches, IBM analyzes 41 million data points collected from eight years of Grand Slam play, including head-to-head matches, similar player types, and playing surfaces.  SlamTracker uses this data to create engaging and compelling tools for digital audiences, which identify key actions players must take to enhance their chances of winning, and give fans player information, match statistics, social sentiment, and more.

The infrastructure that supports the U.S. Open’s digital presence is hosted on an IBM SmartCloud.  This flexible, scalable environment, managed by IBM Analytics, lets the USTA ensure continuous availability of their digital platforms throughout the tournament and year-round.  The USTA and IBM give fans the ability to experience the matches from anywhere, with any device via a mobile-friendly site and engaging apps for multiple mobile platforms.  Together these innovations make the U.S. Open experience immediate and intimate for fans sitting in the stands or on another continent.


Better Service, More Winners, and Fewer Unforced Errors

In tennis, a service (also known as a serve) is a shot to start a point.  In business, a service is a shot to start a point of positive customer interaction, whether that’s a point of sale or an opportunity to serve a customer’s need (e.g., resolving a complaint).

In tennis, a winner is a shot not reached by your opponent, which wins you a point.  In business, a winner is a differentiator not reached by your competitor, which wins your business a sale when it makes a customer choose your product or service.

In tennis, an unforced error is a failure to complete a service or return a shot, which cannot be attributed to any factor other than poor judgement or execution by the player.  In business, an unforced error is a failure to service a customer or get a return on an investment, which cannot be attributed to any factor other than poor decision making or execution by the organization.

Properly supported by enabling technologies, businesses of all sizes, and across all industries, can capture and analyze data to uncover hidden patterns and trends that can help them achieve better service, more winners, and fewer unforced errors.


How can Data change Your Game?

Whether it’s on the court, in the stands, on the customer-facing front lines, in the dashboards used by executive management, or behind the scenes of a growing midsize business, data is a game changer.  How can data change your game?


This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies, or opinions.


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