Between the lines: On the ball with data analysis

Accenture worked with RBS 6 Nations to provide statistical data. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Accenture worked with RBS 6 Nations to provide statistical data. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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Companies have been using in-depth analytics to measure business ­performance and make major decisions for years.

Now, following this year’s successful RBS 6 Nations Championship, we see that data analysis has moved into rugby with a vengeance, going to the core of how and why analytics touches all aspects of life.

Accenture worked with RBS 6 Nations to ­provide statistical data to the media, coaches and fans for that extra layer of insight into match play.

We analysed approximately two million rows of data and, combined with in-depth knowledge from rugby experts Nick Mallett, Ben Kay and David Flatman, provided a deeper understanding of each match, player performance and game-changing moments than ever before.

It is a clear and objective way to analyse performance and with facts at the coach’s fingertips it’s easier to communicate changes of tactics and hold players accountable. It also makes it easier to look at the ­variables of a game, which can provide a greater appreciation of a team’s performance than traditional statistics such as possession, territory and tackles made.

However, access to data is one thing – but a major part of our work was to ­create a platform that could translate it into easy to understand visual information.

This is not only to the advantage of coaches and players; fans also want a more in-depth experience, and the rise of multi-screen viewing means they want more content and more detail than ever before. In an age where attention spans are being squeezed, sports need to compete for that attention by using a variety of approaches including new technology to engage fans.

We also overlaid data ­visualisation tools onto a virtual reality environment to demonstrate the potential of this technology for rugby fans, and potential applications outside sport.

This proof of concept, built on a beta virtual reality headset and development kit, allowed users to fully immerse themselves in the rugby environment, by placing existing reality into virtual reality. Using scanned images of real sports venues, and introducing a virtual guide in the form of Ben Kay, analysis of footage of RBS 6 Nations games appeared on a big screen inside the demo using visualisations created from game data showing easy to understand patterns and trends.

This project provides some interesting parallels for businesses, from training scenarios to customer experiences. Data visualisation enables interactive dashboards, empowering business decision makers to understand the raw data.

By combining this ­powerful tool with virtual reality, enterprises can create tailored solutions to help with decision making in any number of scenarios. Cutting-edge technology, in sport as in business, can make all the difference.

l Bill McDonald is managing director of Accenture Scotland.