Monday, September 7, 2009

Cricket and Business Intelligence – Hitting Runs with BI

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

In a test cricket series, the game is played on different pitches, in a variety of towns with variable weather. The history of the pitch is used with current information relating to the weather and the caretaking practices that were conducted on the days and months leading up to the competition. The captain and selectors determine what the team needs to look like in order to be successful over the next 5 days. Should there be more spinners or fast bowlers? Should elect to bat first? In the same way, a business intelligence initiative needs to be flexible enough to adapt to the requirements of different departments, regions and countries. Keep in mind that we are not breaking up the team here, we are ensuring the team is well equipped to manage these changes. If one department needs more technical or BI product support, then the captain needs to be able to cater to this requirement in order to be successful in enabling BI. A region may need most information delivered in a multi-dimensional portal in order to be competitive. The captain needs to consider this when planning a roll-out and success against competitors.

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.

37 comments:

  1. Jason,

    Fantastic blog!!! You have taken this to a whole new level...

    Regards,
    - Shiva

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Jason
    I am also a cricket fan and also a BI professional. I am based out of India.
    Its a great article assesing the analogies between Cricket and BI.

    Some other examples which I can think of can be:

    Bowler and Batsman play differently in power play overs and normal overs in one day or 20-20 match-
    During the 1990-91, a batting team started to get maximum amount of runs in the power play (first 15)overs by taking risks and hitting extravagant shots because of fielding restrictions and tend to get run a ball in normal overs where as a bowling side tend to contain the batting side by rotating bowler, use slow balls, etc. After seeing the results, all the teams started to follow this strategy and they have gained a lot. For example, Sri Lanka won the 1996 World Cup, thanks to aggresive batting in initial overs by their openers - Sanath Jayasuriya and Kaluwitharana.
    Similarly, a BI managaer can examine and evaluate the market conditions if a solid BI infrastructure is in place and he can decide when to become aggresive and when to become defensive in order to maximise the profits.

    -Sumit Jain
    sumitjain3@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Jason,

    I'm struck by the fact that even over time, a number of the concepts and best practices have remained the same in the game of cricket as well as in business intelligence. You still use a bat and ball,(albeit a different colour some times..but it's still a ball). Some of the design principles around BI still remain true as well...Eg: a practical limit on dimensions for OLAP cubes and the need for star schemas. My colleagues and I were just talking about this within our team yesterday.

    Your point about the game evolving is also a good one. The advent of cloud based BI can be analogous to the rise of Twenty20 cricket. As in any profession, the onus remains with us to remain competitive and flexible to accommodate the new developments in the game of BI while still focusing on getting the basics right in delivering value to our customers.

    Great Post
    Warren Thrush

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  4. Good article, easy and simple to understand. Definitely worth sharing... especially liked the last paragraph.

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  5. Good post, Jason. Tom Davenport has written a lot about sports analysis and business intelligence (you've probs seen it), including a book on 'Competing on Analytics: the new science of winning' ("http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1422103323").

    It's good to see a cricket analogy in the mix too. :-)

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  6. Interestingly, we have a product that performs BI on cricket and it is being used by national teams of the world. Recently, we have adopted it for 20/20 and it performs Predictive Analytics of a 20/20 game.

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  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  8. It's great to see there are so many cricket and BI fans.

    Alex - Tom Davenport is an excellent reference for all things BI (and incidentally sport) - thanks for the note.

    Ananth - I'd really like to try that 20/20 Predictive Analytics before I bet on a match with my friends :)

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  9. Hi Jason,

    It is a great analogy between cricket and BI. I am cricket follower and recently I have joined in BI team. Your article is really a great one.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi Jason,

    It is a great analysis and comparison of BI and cricket which has resulted into a better example of explanation and understanding.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi Jason, good article. Just a point of detail in your fourth para - there are only 9 ways to get out in cricket - they are in rough order of frequency:
    caught, bowled, lbw, run out, stumped, hit wicket, handled the ball, obstructed the field, hit the ball twice.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks for your feedback!

    The 10th way of getting out would be "Timed out" - rarely (if ever) happens. It occurs when a batsman entering the field takes longer than 2 minutes to appear ... maybe after too many lagers from waiting all day :)

    ReplyDelete
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    It shows to others that cricket is not a dacadent sport.

    It really has its own practical use

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