Embracing Analytics (in Basketball and Business)


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Charles Barkley was an 11-time NBA All Star, and he’s currently one of the most entertaining sports broadcasters on the air. However, Sir Charles, as he is called, is not a fan of analytics.

On the February 10 broadcast of Inside the NBA, Barkley referred to the General Manager of the Houston Rockets, Daryl Morley, as “one of those idiots who believe in analytics.” He went on to say, “I’ve always believed analytics was crap.”

Barkley doesn’t see any value in using data to make decisions; he believes that talent and experience are the key ingredients to winning. His attitude is extreme and makes headlines because he’s a high-profile personality – but some organizations are just as reluctant to embrace advanced analytics when it comes to their business.

Customer champions sometimes struggle to secure executive sponsorship, organizational cooperation, or budget for their Voice of the Customer initiatives, in part because leadership doesn’t understand the value of predictive analytics – using past performance metrics to make forward-looking business decisions. Because they don’t have internal support, 45% struggle to connect customer experience investments to real business outcomes.

This attitude is dangerous, because it denies the realities of today’s market. The fact is, analytics are powering huge business successes:
• Sentiment analytics helped Rackspace grow to a $2 billion company.
• Speech analytics let Verizon get insight from over 700,000 calls per month.
• Text analytics uncovers topics and sentiment in 25,000 online conversations for Dell.

And even in basketball, the evidence shows that analytics work. For example, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban attributes much of his team’s recent success to crunching the numbers, saying in an interview that “[Analytics] helped us come back from a 2-0 deficit against Houston in the playoffs. We adjusted our lineups based on what the numbers said.” Cuban’s embrace of analytics has extended even to hiring his college statistics professor to join the Mav’s staff.

Barkley’s comments have received mixed reviews in the sports community (fellow broadcaster Keith Olbermann summed up the pro-analytics view pretty thoroughly in this three-minute rant). However, teams across the league are using statistic because they work – and businesses across industries are doing the same. Big Data is here to stay, and understanding it and using it effectively will be a key differentiator in providing a great customer experience, delivering quality products and services, and winning customer loyalty.

Because in business, as in basketball, winning is really the point. In the end, though, I think Chuck will change his tune about analytics, metrics, and statistics – because it will be his impressive stats, and not his outdated opinions on analytics, that will ensure his legacy.

Lisa Sigler
Over her fifteen-year career doing B2B technology marketing, Lisa Sigler has become a professional translator of "engineer" to "English." She spent time creating content and collateral in the telecommunications, computer networking, and cloud computing industries before joining Clarabridge as Content Marketing Manager.


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