Every business is a technology business

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Success for an NFL franchise involves the cultivation of a variety of core competencies both on and off the field. Recently I had the opportunity to spend time with the Seattle Seahawks organization and I was surprised by the extent to which the team utilizes data and digital tools to drive continuous improvements within their core competencies.

But then why should I be surprised? Let’s face it, today, every business is a technology business. The Seahawks are no different. They are, like many other companies, investing in digital technologies to improve the product on the field and the fan experience in the stands.

Data literacy is a core competency the Seahawks have added to their business. I won’t give away any trade secrets, but let’s take a high-level look at three ways this core competency creates competitive advantage.

First, any advantage on the field can be important. Establishing peak performance levels for each individual player on gamedays can be a difference maker in any given play. The Seahawks monitor various data streams on player health and conditioning. This can be used to make adjustments in practice during the week or manage nagging injuries that sap agility on gameday. In fact, the Seahawks staff make the players part of this data-driven system so they can monitor their own recovery from injuries.

Second, and the other goal, of course, is to entertain fans. The game itself is the center of attention, but little things contribute to the overall fan experience. Wait times at concessions or even the view from the stands can change the experience in meaningful ways. The Seahawks generate their own data on these metrics and correlate them with official NFL fan surveys. They then democratize that data across the organization – deploying it on any device, whether a computer or phone – so that the people managing the various pieces of the fan experience can take action to improve it. Not surprisingly, the Seahawks rank highly in NFL surveys because of this attention to the data and last year ranked 3rd overall out of 32 NFL teams in the NFL’s Voice of the Fan survey for “Best Overall Gameday Satisfaction.”

Finally, all this use of digital technology did not happen overnight. It required a cultural shift across the organization. When you’re asking people to take action based on what they see on a screen, they need to be able to trust the accuracy of the data and the insights created. That meant starting small and building the complexity over time after demonstrating to staff and players that the data and analytics were making a difference. It also means making sure the right infrastructure is applied for the analytics and the networks to put the data into the right hands at the right time. The Seahawks are turning their ability to capture, analyze and act on data quickly and consistently into a sustainable, competitive advantage. 

It’s not hard to see how this embrace of technology might evolve. Could artificial intelligence and predictive analytics be used to review game film and then predict with more accuracy an opposing teams’ play calling tendencies? Or take more informed, preventive actions to avoid injuries for some players? Many possibilities flow from this embrace of data and the digital tools quickly and consistently capture, analyze and act on data.

In today’s world, every successful business is a technology-driven business. One of the things I personally enjoyed about my time with the Seahawks is that they are a clear example of digital technology enhancing human performance, not replacing it. It’s a lesson that applies to any enterprise competing in a dynamic market.

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Blog originally posted on WTIA
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