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World Cup Week Two: Winning at the margins
Delaney Turner 270002T14M firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  world_cup spss cognos business_analytics
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It's a paradox, really. Soccer is a game of immense opportunities. Yet it is an immensely difficult game to win. The pitch is 6,000 square meters in size. The net offers strikers nearly 200 square feet of surface area to shoot at. Coaches can arrange their players in nearly any formation they choose. Yet at the highest levels, goals are scored and matches won in the narrowest of margins. Outcomes are decided in mere fractions of a second.
There's a parallel situation in business: you can choose to play in any number of markets. You have an immense array of tactics and tools at your disposal. You can allocate your team in nearly any formation to achieve your goals. Yet as you probably know, it's incredibly tough to win. You're dealing with margins just as slim, with opportunities emerging in split seconds and lasting just as long. And everything is always in flux: as Stephen Brunt wrote recently in the Globe and Mail, "one little slip, and the whole equation changes."
So how do you win?
Sometimes it's an outstanding individual effort. The great players combine vision, quick decisions and extreme agility to open up passing lanes and find the seams in the tightest defenses. Watch Diego Maradonna in the video below and you'll see how through minor adjustments made a lightning speed he's able to squeeze through the defenders and put the ball in the net :
But soccer is also a team game. If you've read Moneyball, you know how Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane deconstructed run scoring in baseball into a process of discrete steps and then sought out players who could optimize performance at each one to build a smoothly functioning whole. There's a similar principle at work in the example below. Argentina makes more than 20 passes before putting the ball into the net. They score - eventually - because individually, each player adjusts his position just slightly to receive the pass and keep possession. As a team, they coherently asses their options, retreat, reassess, and then finally push forward.
This is the approach you can apply to your business processes using business analytics software. With the right information delivered to the right people at precisely the right time, individual employees and entire teams can develop the same vision, agility and common purpose as the best soccer teams. With reports and dashboards, managers and frontline workers can make the decisions and adjustments that increase efficiency and productivity. In telco, for example, predictive analytics identify which customers are about to leave and which promotions are likely to keep them with you. When it's applied across an entire business process, business analytics software enables teams to more effectively collaborate, respond, predict and act in concert to take advantage of the opportunities when they appear.
Think of what would have happened if any one of those passes in the example above had gone astray - the team loses the ball, loses momentum and must switch tactics from offence (growth) to defence (cost savings). When it gets the ball back, it must start again from scratch. Only now there's less time on the clock and the opposition may have changed tactics as well. Any competitive advantage it had previously built up is now gone. With business analytics software, your own teams can find the seams in your competitors' positions and open up opportunities to succeed.
Interested in starting out? Learn more about IBM Business Analytics Software
(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)