- Big data thinking for FDs
- What businesses can learn from the way sports franchises use big data to improve performance
- Is big data ever going to be for small companies?
Also take, for example, when Red Bull bought Ford’s Formula 1 team Jaguar Racing in 2004. In the five years it was controlled by Ford, its drivers had yet to win a single race. It now dominates Formula 1 racing, and won the double championship every year from 2010 to 2013. According to Red Bull’s head of technical partnerships, Alan Peasland, some 100 gigabytes of data goes into winning a race. Each car is fitted with sensors which gather data about temperature, g-forces, spin, and then feed it back to the engineers. Data also arrives at Red Bull’s UK HQ in “real time” – something CIO Matt Cadieux suggested no other team has the ability to do. This has reigned in some hefty benefits. In the final race of the 2012 season, Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel nearly lost the championship after a crash with another car. The team decided against bringing him into the pit, instead keeping him on the track while engineers figured out whether the race could be salvaged. Vettel went on to finish in sixth place. Another example comes from 2013, when Oracle Team USA made one of the greatest sporting comebacks of all time by using 300 sensors in much the same fashion. It was suggested that about 3,000 variables were running at ten times a second – all while sailing – from sensors that measured strain on the mast to angle sensors on the wing sail that monitored the effectiveness of each adjustment. This just comes to show that teams and analytics providers have have come up with increasingly sophisticated ways of monitoring and capturing ever-growing volumes of data. According to Business Diction’s Kevin Mulligan, the tactics employed in the Moneyball story yields an important lesson for SMEs as well. He said: “Sometimes the best ideas are born out of desperation. When the Oakland A’s started picking up random, undesirable players based on a single statistic, they were called crazy. “No one thought it would work because it was an unorthodox strategy. The team’s financial situation may have pushed management toward an unorthodox strategy, but sometimes being unorthodox is your best option.” Another team which is set to use big data as a way of punching above its weight is London-based football club Brentford. Having secured back-to-back promotions, which saw the team rise to the second best league in England, the owner has decided to employ tactics similar to the Oakland Athletics. Led by entrepreneur and hedge fund manager Matthew Benham, Brentford has long dealt with a smaller than average budget and is hoping to leverage what has been done at Danish team FC Midtjylland – another team Benham is a sizable stakeholder in. So drastic is the change that widely-admired and successful manager Mark Warburton was disposed of, and a new mathematical structure for recruiting players introduced. The next few years will prove key in determining whether Brentford’s gamble (Benham is a big poker player) pays off and allows the team to join the elite of the English Premier League – but it’s ambitious and trailblazing to say the least. Something that made the A’s so great was management’s focus on its undervalued players. “Your industry standard for hiring might be someone with a bachelor’s degree in business management and three to five years of experience,” he said. “Or MBA candidates from a top ten school with ten years of experience. All of your competitors are investing serious money into salaries for these candidates, so obviously you have to do the same just to keep up. This can lead to an expensive war for talent.” Essentially, when other MLB teams and critics called the A’s crazy, they built a winning team that was right for their financial situation. No one said it would work, and it did. What you may not realise is that investing in data and learning how to use it, no matter how small the change, might be transformative for your business – as is evident by the success witnessed by sports teams. By Shané Schutte
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