Data, analytics and the need for speed

Client Technical Leader for UK Public Sector, IBM UK Ltd.

The case is clear: the faster you can turn raw data into intelligent insight, the quicker you can get ahead of your competitors.

This theme comes through loud and clear in the latest analytics study from IBM’s Institute for Business Value. Nonetheless, only 10 percent of organizations fit into the category of Front Runners and already demonstrate high speed to action levels. These are the data-driven organizations using analytics to drive business processes within most business functions.


The V for velocity is clearly not an easy nut to crack.

But one organization that is really making it happen right now is the RFU (Rugby Football Union). In fact, you need look no further than this month’s rugby internationals in England to see big data—at speed—in action. 

Rugby can be a difficult game to comprehend, even for its most dedicated supporters. It is a team game where players take on different roles on the field of play and the matches themselves are fluid, so the RFU uses real-time match analytics, coupled with historical match data, to bring the game of rugby closer to die-hard and new generations of fans alike.

And it needs to be quick. To make it the best, most engaging experience for fans, linking the physical world of the stadium and the digital world of broadcast, the RFU has to respond to real-time match events. 

The IBM TryTracker is designed to help navigate both casual viewers and experts alike through the action as it happens, making sense of what they are watching and driving discussion about the key turning points and star performers.  

  • A bespoke algorithm analyzes key events over a period of time providing a real-time update on which team is on top—and who has the momentum
  • By analyzing five years of matches, it identifies the three keys each team needs to achieve to stand a better chance of winning, and then tracks them in real time
  • Both positive (for example, metres gained) and negative (such as missed tackles) key events are analyzed by player and tailored for their position in the team to see who is having the greatest influence on the match

In this year’s rugby internationals, played throughout the month of November, the RFU will again be using the IBM TryTracker to educate, connect and enthuse. Their need for speed is fuelled by a clear objective: data-driven insights which will (and do) increase fan engagement.  It also shows that speed of insight is driven by the width of the aperture of analytics: the wider you can infuse analytics and insight, the more agile and effective your organization. And for me, that is the true nature of a data-driven organization—one that puts the power of data into the hands of all who really need it.