Accenture outlines future of cloud and data analytics in sport

Accenture 3Although the digital age has created a wealth of opportunities for organizations to create new revenue streams and attract new audiences, maintaining engagement of these customers is becoming an increasing difficult job, according to Accenture’s Nick Millman.

The availability and ease of information in the 21st century has created a new dynamic where consumers are now becoming increasingly competent at multi-tasking and operating several devices, which has made the task of keeping a viewer’s attention throughout the course of a sporting event more challenging. Millman, who leads the Big Data & Analytics Delivery at Accenture, are using this dynamic to create new engagement opportunities for the Six Nations.

“There will be a number of people who will watch the entirety of a match, however there will be others who will be playing with their tablet or phone and enjoying the multi-screen experience,” said Millman. “To keep the level of engagement, sports need to become more digital themselves, providing more insight and data to fans who are watching the game. Ideally you want them to be on their phone looking at something which is relevant to the game as opposed to Facebook or what their friends are doing.”

Accenture first teamed up with the Six Nations as a technology partner four years ago, where the initial partnership focused on demonstrating the company’s mobility capabilities through creating the official app. What started as a basic app now acts as a delivery platform where Accenture can showcase their data analytics capabilities, processing more than 2 million rows of data per game and creating visuals in (near) real-time to tell a different story behind the sport itself.

The data itself is not necessarily the greatest use to the fans, so Accenture has brought in rugby experts year-on-year to help understand the nuances of the information. This year Nick Mallet, Ben Kay and David Flatman helped the team tell the story. This is the same in the business world. Data analysts themselves may not be able to make the right decisions when it’s comes to the application of the data, as they wouldn’t understand the market in the same way as a Managing Director who has been in the industry for 30 years. The application of data in sport and the business world will only be effective when it is merged with expertise and experience to provide context.

Accenture 2“One of the interesting things which we saw is that there is now an interesting dynamic between data driven decisions and gut feel,” Millman highlighted. “In some cases when you are watching the game you may think that one player would be considered the best on the park, but the data tells a different story. Seeing one hooker for example hit every line out perfectly might make him look like the most effective, but the data might suggest the opposition hooker who produced several small gains when carrying the ball had a greater impact on the game.

“This can translate into the business world also, as a marketing team may have a better feel about a product which it wants to push out to the market, but the data team have evidence which shows resource should be focused on a different area of the business,” said Millman. “I don’t think there is a right answer to what is better, data driven decision making or intuition, but it’s an interesting dynamic. The successful businesses will be the ones who are effective at blending the data and the skills to come to the right outcome.”

While the role of analytics is becoming more prominent in sport and the business world, there is still some education to be done before the concepts could be considered mainstream. Analytics may be big business in the enterprise segments, but there are still a large proportion of SMBs who do not understand the power of data analytics for their own business. The ability to cross sell, develop a stronger back story of your customer, maintain engagement or even implement artificial intelligence programs is only available once the core competencies of big data and analytics are embraced within the organization.

Accenture 1For Accenture, wearables and IoT are next on the horizon and potentially virtual reality in the future. This year the app was available on the Apple watch, as Millman is starting to see trends which could shift the consumption of data once again.

“It’s still early days, but some of the consumption of data is likely to shift from tablets and smartphones,” said Millman. “Like it shifted from desktops to laptops to smartphones and tablets, it may shift to wearable devices in the future.

“Also this year we build a prototype using virtual reality to immerse people into the rugby experience. I’m not sure VR will become mainstream in a sporting context in the next 12-18 months but I think increasingly VR and AR (augmented reality) will become a part of the sports viewing experience.”