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You’ve Got the Equipment, so Go Play Ball!

by Dave Hannon

April 11, 2011

By Dave Hannon

Statistics were always a big part of baseball. I guess it’s no mistake that the sport was invented by Abner Doubleday, a soldier with civil engineer training, two professions that rely heavily on analysis of past trends to predict future performance. (Although even the Doubleday data is being sliced and diced).

For more than a century, professional baseball has collected statistics about players’ batting averages, pitchers’ winning percentages, etc. Charles Buffington of the Boston Beaneaters pitched 587 innings and struck out 417 batters in 1884, for example. Yeah, 1884.

Today, professional ball teams are governed very much by numbers and data. They have percentages and data for every conceivable situation and many manage their team’s strategy based on numbers. They have full-time brainiacs do nothing but crunch numbers and search through the piles of data for something –any little piece of “intelligence” that will help their team win. I suppose we can thank Bill James and the Sabermetrics gang for the current level of insanity.

And baseball’s going to go further that way. This Bloomberg article illustrates the next wave of baseball data coming down the base path – a fascinating read but not for the traditionalists out there, who say it’s getting too data-driven.

But for a long time, you could say baseball teams weren’t leveraging the amount of data they had a vailable. It was all there sitting in dusty notebooks for decades, while teams still operated based on memory or the manager’s and players’ gut-feel. They weren’t the data driven enterprises they are today.

I suspect the same is true at many companies. We’re all collecting data and we’re realizing the power of being a data-driven enterprise, but there is likely some piece of data at our company we’re not seeing yet that could send our business in a totally new direction. For example, in this story on Campbell Soup, they dug into customer profitability. Knowing which customers were most profitable is a powerful piece of information to your margins.

What do you think? Are there more undiscovered gems hiding in your data warehouse that will vault your company ahead? Or are you a "traditionalist" who thinks most companies have already gone data-daffy and need to get back to more basic business strategy?

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