The technology that can help Sweden win the FIFA World Cup 2018 - and help companies be more successfulPublished 10 Mar 2017
Getting the ball into the goal calls for management to make the right decisions. Big data is already winning big matches abroad - will Sweden be the next country? And what can companies learn from soccer teams?
Did you know that professional athletes are not only filmed on the field, but are also monitored in all conceivable ways with accelerometers, heart rate monitors, and GPS sensors? Big data is about to revolutionize sport after sport. Statistics have always been an important tool for coaches, but the amount of data that is now possible to collect is unprecedented in the history of sports.
Data analysis has already had success in American football and baseball, and all indications are that soccer will now be its next big arena. In Great Britain, for example, all 20 Premier League stadiums have been equipped with digital cameras that follow each player's slightest movement on the field. A dozen data points are collected per player every second and almost one and a half million data points in a match. During training, the data is increased even more since players train with sensors in their shoes and on their bodies which are not allowed during the matches.
The idea has been quite clear from the start: the more information that is collected, the better decisions the coach can make. How fast can our forward change course direction? How often does the center pass? What are the goalkeeper's movement patterns? Each player is analyzed and models are created for how plays can be optimized. In the beginning, everyone focused on collecting as much data as possible, but as data volumes exploded, it became clear that the most important thing is how all the information is interpreted.
"The amount of data in itself does not make anyone happy," said Jim Nielsen, CEO of Knowit Decision Denmark. The value is if the information can be used to make intelligent decisions, and then a larger amount of data can provide a better substantiated conclusion. However, it is necessary to understand the information and interpret it correctly."
Jim Nielsen cites Thomas Davenport's well-known DELTA model as an example. DELTA is a thought out model developed by management researcher, Thomas Davenport, just over ten years ago, for how an organization can use collected data to gain insight into and optimize business operations. (A complete examination is available in Davenport's book "Competition on Analytics: The New Science of Winning" from 2007.) The acronym stands for Data, Enterprise, Leadership, Targets and Analysts, and are the different levels of an organization to which Davenport believes analytics can be applied. Jim Nielsen believes that the Analysts level is especially of interest because it contains the processes that determine whether an organization can assimilate the insights and apply the new knowledge:
"Data collection and analysis must be integrated into the business," concludes Jim Nielsen. Sports clubs have understood the value of analyzing all the results and calculating how future outcomes can be affected. In other organizations, it may take longer before you see results, making it even more important to develop and implement internal strategies.
Big data and advanced data analysis are not magical solutions, and they require that management understands its operation and is prepared to make the necessary changes. However, Jim Nielsen sees no immediate contradiction between informed decisions and gut feelings.
"It's smart to squeeze out the greatest possible knowledge from the organization's data volume," he says. But it should not happen at the expense of creativity and courage to change. Computers should not replace leaders, but strengthen them. And Denmark must have missed out in Euro 2016, but we will see you in the World Cup in 2018."
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