SAP HANA Going “Moneyball”

After recently acquiring a sports ticketing and entertainment software solution, SAP has announced the launch of the SAP Scouting solution, an enterprise offering enabling sports franchises to improve their ability to identify and acquire the talent that should fuel their teams’ on-field success. SAP developed the solution in partnership with the National Football League’s (NFL) San Francisco 49ers during preparation for the 2013 NFL Draft. The announcement was made at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, which was held March 1-2 in Boston.

SAP Scouting is one solution in a wider portfolio that SAP offers for the sports and entertainment industry. The offerings include real-time analytics and applications that enable sports franchises to maximize team performance, deepen fan engagement, optimize business efficiency, and support them in maximizing revenues. Hardly anyone even remotely following sports is still unaware of the “Moneyball” book and movie based on the Oakland A’s ability to smartly compete against much richer baseball competitors via analytics. SAP Scouting will bring together the power of cloud and in-memory analytics technologies to help teams incorporate the use of technology to drive key player personnel decisions, evaluations, and roster optimizations (in tune with NFL’s strict team salary cap limitation). SAP Scouting is envisioned to enable teams to do the following:

  • provide scouts, executives, coaches, and trainers with the ability to access and enter player evaluations with a modern, easy-to-use application powered by the SAP HANA in-memory computing platform;

  • create a more complete and unified picture of each prospect by bringing together information from qualitative (hunch or gut-feel) evaluations with quantitative (hard figures and stats) information from scouting databases and other sources;

  • compare prospects in real time and benchmark them against professionals in certain positions; and

  • collaborate to develop a draft-day strategy with an interactive draft board.

These capabilities should enable teams to transform the scouting and player evaluation processes, increasing efficiency so they can execute the processes faster, smarter, and simpler as they prepare for the draft day. These sports examples as well as the recent customized cancer treatments illustrate only the tip of the iceberg of mind-boggling uses that SAP HANA could lend itself well to. This could be both a blessing and a curse for SAP. On the one hand, the SAP HANA opportunity seems unlimited. On the other hand, there could be a classic marketing mistake of developing technology for technology’s sake, going broad and wide in the design, and leaving it to the overwhelmed market to figure out the potential practical use scenarios (or do it sequentially at best). Often a much better approach is to have a sniper's focus on customer needs from the outset, and then expand outward with the underlying technical capabilities.
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