Can analytics help to make “marginal gains” across digital transformation?
Last week I was lucky enough to meet some sports professionals who really do know how to extract better performance from the sports stars they manage. It was therefore quite unnerving to put myself through the same analysis that the golf stars’ use.
Let me start off by saying that I am only an average golfer, so any slight improvement in my game should be welcomed however it won’t be a life changing event if I shave a point or two off my handicap. However, what I am keen to explore is whether the same analytical approach can be translated into the IT world we all care about.
I will leave the results of the analysis to a later blog and the podcast which Mark Chillingworth and Horizon Business Innovation are doing with us, but I am keen to know from other businesses whether measuring performance really does matter to CIO’s and IT leaders?
I would contend that it does and the CIO’s that I work with are passionate about the transformation projects which they are working on. What I am really interested in starting a conversation about is whether the well-used “marginal gains” sports analogy can be translated to IT digital transformation projects?
This will mean analysing data from the start and having a base point as well as knowing what the end point or goal is set to be. Then of course you have to track your progress and performance at regular points along the journey.
How To Interpret Data In A More Meaningful Way?
In many cases the problem that IT leaders face is that there is almost too much information or it is available in silos. This makes it very difficult to interpret in any meaningful way. Even if the information was available in one place, who is responsible for interpreting the data and would the departmental managers be responsible for “marking their own homework”?
Performance coaches in professional sport seem to have largely overcome this by using multiple data sources and building up a complete picture of an athlete’s performance. For those of you who are sports fans and follow the Opta index, it is no coincidence that the football and rugby players who run the furthest and complete the most passes are very often the “game changers”.
You will also find sports stars who don’t like the data statistics as there is nowhere to hide anymore, however the best stars see as it a way to improve as they can focus on the key improvement opportunities. Top sports coaches (as will be revealed in the podcast) use multiple analytic sources to focus on two or three things which can help them improve their performance. This is where the science of marginal gains really does make a difference to winning and losing in major competitions.
All the sports coaches and elite athletes I have met use the data to help them focus on the key areas to improve performance, but they were also at pains to point out that without good interpretation and coaching the data on its own would be of little value.
From an IT perspective, most of us are also grappling with more data and being asked to move faster with things like micro-services. How can you monitor and manage these effectively when things are changing so fast? Which brings me back to my original question, does IT performance matter? The answer undoubtedly “of course” but the job of measuring performance is one that all of us in IT need to be looking to continuously improve all the time. As Gary Player once said, “the harder I practice the luckier I get”, but how much better would he have been if he could have removed the luck from all his hard work?