How Could Cricket and BI Possibly be Connected?
As the Ashes series came to a conclusion, and the One Day International series between England and Australia powered on, and with so many late evenings watching cricket it was bound to happen...my thoughts on business intelligence and cricket started to collide. Being a naturalised Australian, heralding from Canada; this was a strange experience indeed. I could blame it on the late nights, the newness of the sport, or the countless white papers and presentations I have participated in, but in the end my “cricket brain” and my “BI brain” began to merge as one.
So where do you start when drawing parallels between sport and BI? Well, the need to extract information from businesses for decision making has existed before the first widget came off the assembly line, and it is now a global requirement...BI is a global sport. Cricket on the other hand has been around just as long. It is believed it evolved from the game “Rounders” in the 16th century – the seed from which baseball was born as well - and became the national pastime in England by the 18th century. Cricket is played in many countries, but only a handful of countries really excel at the sport. Alright then it’s fair to say both BI and cricket are widespread, but it is very difficult to really excel at either given all the variables in the environment. We have our first run! Here’s a few more:
The Cricket Pitch and Ball is Constantly Changing
Captains, bowlers, batsmen and spectators are obsessed with the pitch and ball in cricket the same way CEOs, senior managers and investors need information on the changing conditions within a business. If the pitch forms a crack and it goes unnoticed, it could mean disaster for a batsman. Not having the tools in place to recognise where costs are pouring out of the organisation from an unmanaged crack will have the same consequences. Competitors and investors will punish this negligence making it more difficult to defend your wicket (customers, products, market share). Ensuring that you have solutions in place to monitor business performance will enable you to be confident when you are defending your wicket and aggressively playing the ball.
Different Skills for Different Conditions
If You Can’t Defend Your Wicket, You will Be Bowled Out
In cricket there are 10 ways to get out. A few of the most common are being caught out, leg before wicket (LBW) and bowled out when the ball hits the stumps knocking off the bails. During the entire time the batsman has 10 men who only want to do one thing – “Get him out!” One overly aggressive, careless or miscalculated move, and the batsman will need to be replaced until all 10 (in most cases) have been bowled out. Business Intelligence information whether its operational, sales focussed, or for process improvement will be surrounded by an onslaught from competitors and sometimes internal attacks. With good information you will be able to defend the attacks, and with great information be able to turn the intelligence into runs that result in real profit.
Cricket and BI Come in a Variety of Flavours
Cricket in its “purest” form is as a test series that could take a couple of months to determine a victor (and even then it could be a draw). Rather than a 5 day test, cricket can also be enjoyed by limiting the number of overs to 50 as in a one day match-up or 20 in the popular Twenty20 cricket. The idea is that spectators and players can enjoy the sport with varying levels of commitment. Often times fans of Twenty20 will enjoy the sport enough to begin committing to the “One Dayers” or even a Test Series. Business Intelligence is the same in that corporations have the ability to invest in a small proof in one department, and after enjoying success they can look to deploy a wider solution. The goal may be to even centralise BI as I suggested in a previous article.
So you can see that maybe my cricket brain isn’t too far off the stumps when it comes to comparing it to Business Intelligence. I’m sure you could draw other examples, post them below if you suffer from a cricket/BI conflict as well.