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Yesterday, I attended a keynote presentation delivered by the ESPN president George Bodenheimer. ESPN delivers 24/7 sports to millions of sports fans every day, they have really changed the game in entertainment!

This was one of the most impactful presentations I have heard in a long time. The main theme of Mr. Bodenheimer’s presentation was the story of an entrepreneurial media network that has focused on their culture and driven a “can do” attitude from the people that work for the network. What really struck me though was that at its heart ESPN is a technology company, and may have more in common with software companies than with some of its competitors.

The board of ESPN enables a culture of controlled experimentation, they have some simple philosophies. Firstly they have they publish their top 3 goals every year so employees know their priorities. Employees are then encouraged to experiment and find new ways to achieve their goal. They don’t always know what will work, but they know they want to be first to adopt. ESPN has lead the way with high definition technology; with placing the yellow lines on football fields, with remote camera controls; 3D sports; animated play simulations, and blow by blow data analysis of games, sometimes technology makes the job of the referees challenging, and fans love it even more.

ESPN’s mission is simple “To serve sports fans wherever sports are watched, listened to, discussed, debated, read about” their key strategies are to find the audiences and some of their key initiatives this year are Mobility, Social Media, internet.

Mr. Bodenheimer spoke of the experiments they are running, driving greater abilities for simulations of play, better analytics and explanations of player and game statistics, using tools to allow people to interact with their friends while the game is live through social media, integration for both local and national sports.

Sports is one of the few things that is consumed predominantly real time – people want to see their games live and will stay up late for the chance to be first to see the blow by blow analysis during the game, they can’t wait for tomorrow, yesterdays news is just too old.

Is business software going the same way? Executives need to see things in motion right now; we need to understand the strategies that are in play by having data insight into both our own game and the opposition’s game so that we can make the right moves at the right time. We don’t want to play the game in the office; we need it on the field close to the action so that we can direct the game. This is where managers of the future will be, that’s why mobility and immediate high speed data analysis is such a crucial play.

Which software companies are going to be the ESPN for business? –Which have the tools, the systems the people and the culture – we are entering a fun world for business and its only getting faster…bring it on!

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