Ian Stone, MD, Anaplan, UK and Ireland, explains how to make the most of small windows of opportunity, which events such as the Six Nations present
“Rugby is great. The players don’t wear helmets or padding; they just beat the living daylights out of each other and then go for a beer. I love that.”
– Joe Theismann
Dating back to 1882, The Six Nations rugby tournament is the oldest rugby championship in the world. Following a fascinating Rugby World Cup in the autumn, all eyes are on the home nations and how they will react. Whether it be the disappointment of the English early exit, or the promise of an invigorated Irish side, it is sure to be a fascinating battle.
With more than 1 million spectators attending throughout the tournament you don’t need sophisticated analysis tools to tell you that this means boom time for businesses across the six home cities – both for local businesses and large multinational enterprises.
However, being in the position to tackle this opportunity is somewhat more complicated. Managing sales spikes has long been an issue for all manner of businesses and while planning is essential it can only go so far – markets are dynamic and changeable so this means you must be as well. Modern technology is at the heart of achieving success.
Getting your angles right
Perhaps the best example of capitalising on a short-term window-of-opportunity comes from the sporting arena – though not necessarily rugby. Back during the 2010 Football World Cup, manufacturers were quick to take advantage of the crowd’s enthusiasm for the vuvuzela, a noisy plastic horn favoured by local South African football fans. By being quick enough to spot the trend, many retailers were able to generate vast profits, selling hundreds of thousands of vuvuzelas before concerns over noise intensity – in part, thanks to the volume in which the horns were sold – led to them being banned from stadiums and events across the world.
Tapping into the trends is only half the battle. Ensuring that you can meet demand – without running out or being left with surplus stock – presents a tougher challenge.
While demand planning was traditionally a rigid top-down, complex process without much flexibility, today’s decisions now have to be made in a more agile way. Thanks to their ubiquity, spreadsheets have become the de facto planning tool, used across any number of departments or functions. And while they may be the weapon of choice for many smaller companies, it’s important to remember that they were never designed for that job: they were designed to be a personal-productivity tool!
Recycling the ball quickly
Instead of spreadsheets, some businesses have resorted to building complex custom analytics tools. In many cases years are spent fine-tuning these applications, eventually to the detriment of the business as the initial developer of the complex codes has probably left the company long ago.
When it comes to adding agility, cloud computing now offers the most compelling argument. Being updated in real-time allows the entire team to be involved in collaborating on the best approach, whilst sharing accountability for the results as they are realised. The on-demand resources of the cloud provide retailers with unprecedented scale and the ability to cost-effectively manage and process data volumes that were previously unthinkable.
To borrow an example from rugby: when you are camped on the opposition’s try line, you want to recycle the ball quickly, so you can maintain your competitive advantage – playing a slow ball gives the opposition the time to get back into shape. Cloud computing is the business equivalent of the “quick ball”.
Re-forecasting tomorrow based on today’s results, pivoting the business based on changing environments, and having the tools you’ve built automatically change with you is paramount in maintaining a competitive advantage in today’s business landscape. With peaks in trading around special events unlikely to fade at any point, it’s essential for businesses to be prepared – and there’s no excuse not to with the tools available.
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