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Jabulani: Business lessons in a World Cup ball
Delaney Turner 270002T14M firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  business_analytics world_cup cfo cfo_study
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"Dreadful," says England's David James.
"Upredictable," says Italy's Gianluigi Buffon.
"Like a ball you'd buy at the supermarket," says Brazil's Julio Cesar.
Hardly a warm welcome for Adidas' "Jabulani," the official ball of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Now, it's reasonable to assume that some of the vitriol has as much to do with rival sponsors than the specific merits of the ball. After all, it's not as if Adidas doesn't know how to make these things. The company has unveiled a new one for every World Cup since its iconic "Telstar" model in 1970. It's not as if players aren't completely new to it, either. Professional leagues throughout Europe, South Africa, South America and other soccer federations that qualified for the tournament have been using it since February.
Nevertheless, the Jabulani is different from previous balls. And the way players have responded to it can teach you a valuable lesson in what to expect if you're rolling out a BI deployment:
Whether you're talking soccer balls or business analytics, new technology is invariably disruptive and instantly polarizing. Be patient, prepare for resistance and prepare to explain.
Just like the Jabulani is forcing players to adjust to the ball's new characteristics, a finance analyst's experience of using new software to perform familiar tasks is different. This is where the resistance begins. It's easy to understand why this happens. Whether you're a highly paid soccer star or a highly skilled financial analyst, you strive for high performance. You have high expectations of yourself. You've configured the tools at your disposal to work in a way that gives you the information you need. New technology - even if it performs the same basic functions - can disrupt your work habits.
Like other soccer balls, the Jabulani is still round and does indeed bounce. And like a budget done in Excel, a forecast in IBM Cognos TM1 has rows, columns and data. Nothing in either that's instantly unfamiliar. Under the covers, though, there are innovations in both that offer users opportunities to go beyond the basics and reach new levels of performance.
The Jabulani boasts features that, in the words of one Adidas engineer, encourage "more extreme shots." For example: it's made from just eight curved panels (down from 14 flat ones in the previous "TeamGeist" model). This means fewer seams, a truer shape and a 70 percent larger striking surface. Its surface features "aero grooves" that in wind tunnel testing give it a consistent trajectory through the air. In addition, small "microtexture" indentations give the player more control and a more precise touch on a wider range of surfaces. All told, Adidas says the Jabulani is its most stable and most accurate ball ever.
IBM Cognos TM1 offers Finance similarly effective innovations. A 64-bit, in-memory engine lets you consolidate and analyze large data volumes more quickly than ever. You can integrate unsecured spreadsheets into a single, flexible financial model. And you can implement best practices like rolling, driver-based forecasts and "what-if" scenarios that are the foundation of an efficient, competitive and innovative Finance department - what the recent IBM Global CFO Study would dub a "Value Integrator."
The key is getting past the initial resistance, and here it's the Finance analyst that has a distinct advantage. World Cup players have little choice but to use the Jabulani, so they must quickly adapt their approach. For Finance analysts exploring a business analytics deployment, however, IBM offers a wide range of resources and services to help you explain why you're introducing new tools and the benefits users will see. Through our IBM Cognos Innovation Center for Performance Management and BI Champion's Kit, for example, you can connect to your peers to ask questions and get advice on successful rollout approaches and techniques.
Two technologies, each promising greater efficiencies, each opening new possibilities for better performance. With the Jabulani, it's a player's ability to move the ball more quickly than before, with more accuracy and control than before. For Finance users, it's the ability to understand and analyze business performance quickly and to combine disparate data in new ways for new insights into risk, profitability and growth.
It's four years until the next World Cup in Brazil, when no doubt we'll see more "extreme shots" as players learn to master the new ball. With IBM Cognos TM1 and other business analytics software, you can improve your performance in a much shorter time. Are you ready to go for goal?