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How Cutting-Edge Business Practices Are Applied To The RBS 6 Nations

Duncan MacRae is former editor and now a contributor to TechWeekEurope. He previously edited Computer Business Review's print/digital magazines and CBR Online, as well as Arabian Computer News in the UAE.

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Nick Millman, MD of big data & analytics delivery for Europe, Accenture, explains how analytics brings the 6 Nations Championships closer to rugby fans

Companies have been using in-depth analytics to measure business performance and make more informed decisions for many years.

From analysing foot traffic and buying decisions in major retail stores, to enhancing social media marketing campaigns, to enabling a smooth end-to-end process along a supply chain – data analysis is increasingly being placed at the heart of business strategy.

Customer expectations

The evolution of not only customer expectations, but entire businesses and industries, has moved data analysis into new areas. From fighting disease to comparing hotels, analytics touches almost every aspect of life. You might not always be aware of it, but it drives what you see and what you buy — and how it impacts sport experiences is no different, with this year’s Rugby 6 Nations demonstrating this point perfectly.

Rugby is becoming an increasingly competitive and closely-fought sport, with the gap between the traditional powers and rising nations closing, as evidenced by the success of some of the less-fancied nations in the World Cup and the failure of the hosts (unfortunately for me). With the likes of Argentina reaching the semi-finals, and closer to home, Scotland almost knocking out Australia, finding an extra edge is becoming ever more important.

France v Italy, Six Nations rugbyThis year, our team is working with the likes of Nick Mallett, former head coach for Italy and South Africa national rugby union teams, Rugby World Cup winner Ben Kay and former England prop David Flatman to conduct our most comprehensive analysis of the sport yet.

Every match, we’ll analyse approximately 2 million rows of data to provide a deeper understanding of the match, player performance and game-changing moments than ever before. This level of detail is nothing new for Accenture, or in the wider business world, but in sport it still has tremendous untapped potential.

Analytics insights can help players and coaches fix the tiny problems that can win or lose a game, helps teams know their opponents’ strengths and weaknesses, and, ultimately, helps a nation achieve success. Quite simply, it is bringing the insight of the boardroom to the locker room.

Away from the training pitch, analytics gives fans the most detailed information available and allows them to enjoy the game on a whole new level. Consumers are increasingly expecting a holistic digital experience, and this is as true of sport as it is of their weekly shop or their TV viewing habits.

I’ve been working with data and analytics for many years, and the Rugby 6 Nations Championships provide an opportunity to once again apply this thinking to an area that is close to my heart. It will be fascinating to see what fans make of the insights we’re producing, and how our predictions will stack up come the end of the tournament.

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