A business, like a rugby team, needs on-field intelligence to make the right calls – Interview with Alan Swanepoel

As the world comes to terms with the advantages that digitisation has brought to enhance efficiencies and competitiveness, most C-suites understand the value of business intelligence (BI). Simply put, an effective BI solution can save time, money and enable almost real-time decision-making that can have a material impact on a business’s performance.

But how does it do this? A young British rugby fan has given us a great analogy. Many South Africans follow the Springboks and are elated at a World Cup win followed by a series triumph over the British and Irish Lions. Not everyone is as happy, and in the aftermath of the Boks going from average and beatable to the best in the world in a short amount of time, all sorts of explanations have surfaced. One such England-based commentator, called Wibble Rugby, released a video titled: “How the Springboks won the World Cup.”

Towards the end of the video, he makes the claim that he has uncovered the Boks’ secret weapon. Whether his claim is true or not, the concept is not dissimilar to a business running a BI solution such as Qlik.

He says: “Here we reveal South Africa’s not-so-secret weapon. [Scrumhalf] Faf de Klerk showed incredible awareness and skill to read the game to make the big decisions he made in defence.”

He then references a move against Wales in the semifinal: “Here, he [Faf] makes a brilliant read, leaving his place behind the ruck to act as a sweeper in case Wales put through a grubber… which they do, and De Klerk covers it. This read was called by [then-defence coach] Jacques Nienaber who can be seen here celebrating on the touchline.”

The video switches to a passage of play in the World Cup final against England. “Against England all throughout this passage, Nienaber was seen on the touchline giving commands to his Springbok players. Remember, Nienaber started as a physio… he is therefore a qualified medic and entitled to be on the touchline. That South Africa’s defence coach could be on the touchline is invaluable. He would know all the cues and all the set-ups to the England attack and therefore would have been relaying them to his Bok players [in real-time].

“Basically, he could at any point tell his team where the opposition were going to strike. It was like having an angel on your shoulder being able to tell you what’s going on and where you are going wrong, like having your favourite teacher in the exam hall correcting your answers.”

He then goes on to say that people cannot be mad as it is “totally legal”. The young analyst ends the insert by saying: “Work rate and intelligence saved South Africa.”

South Africans would agree with the last sentence, irrespective of whether Nienaber helped from the sideline or not, because the truth of the matter is that the on-field generals in the squad would be watching and interpreting the opposition’s moves and calls from within their defensive positions on the field anyway, communicating and relaying these insights to their team-mates in real-time.

The point of this analogy is not to question Nienaber, who is our current head coach and doing a sterling job, it is to demonstrate what real-time intelligence is: in the words of Wibble Rugby: “It is like having an angel on your shoulder being able to tell you [in real-time] what’s going on and where you are going wrong.”

That’s the power of an intelligent BI solution. However, there are efficiencies and savings inherent in onboarding a solution even before delving into this power of business intelligence.

Reporting preparation is a lengthy process, often carried out by individuals whose core focus and responsibilities in a business are not even IT or data related. This fosters resistance and, over time, fewer people are willing to champion reporting and analysis. This is challenging for organisations because it inevitably means that senior staff members, often in sales and finance management, take it upon themselves to ensure reporting is available in the business. These managers could spend days, and in some cases weeks, preparing reports at the expense of their primary roles.

To compound this, most businesses only use tools that come standard with various business platforms, such as those found in CRM, ERP, POS and HR platforms. Various human resources – usually across sales and finance – are allocated to compile and analyse reports, which causes organisational silos with no real insight across the business.

Conducting a cost-benefit analysis easily shows that adopting a BI solution would save time that people spend producing reports. This means that before even extracting the true insights that quality BI platforms enable, the time savings alone, as well as the benefit of having current reporting, would justify the cost development.

The case is compelling. Why, then, do C-suites hesitate to implement a proper BI solution? Much stems from misunderstandings around prohibitive costs.

Traditionally, to start the BI journey, a business would have to look at licensing and traditionally this would be server-based. Then there would be licensing per user with a varied cost depending on the type of usage.

Progressive BI solutions have addressed this. Qlik, for example, has adapted licensing costs to offer a subscription-based licensing model with no minimum number of licences required to start. This type of model allows for the growth of the BI solution over time as the business goes through the adoption phase.

Investing in physical server hardware is costly, and so cloud solutions such as Qlik are more attractive as they remove the initial infrastructure outlay cost. In addition to this there are no maintenance and IT costs.

When working with the right partner and implementing the best BI solution, it really is becoming easier to have an angel on the shoulders of business decision-makers within an organisation, showing them what’s going on, what’s going wrong, and how and when to leave their set play and make a try-saving tackle.

Interview credit to ITWeb for the official publication.

Share this post with your colleagues:

Previous Post
Creating a data culture, by Director, Upuli de Abrew
Next Post
How to create real value through data analysis – Interview with Director, Sean Taylor