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The NBA, in partnership with SAP, released its entire statistical history online for free last week.  The news is a boon for sports junkies and statheads, who up until now didn’t have access to the breadth and depth of history only available to the league and sports media.

The site showcases every NBA box score dating back to their inaugural 1946-1947 season, incredible shooting charts that graphically represent offensive and defensive success from the basketball court, insight into how successful different combinations of teammates are when playing in the same lineup, and individual player stats. 

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   Shot charts illustrate the location, distribution, and success percentage of every shot attempted from the court.

Like so many others, I’ve played around with the tool and am blown away by how beautiful, fast, and easy to use it is.  More importantly, this tool goes a long way in demonstrating the difference between data and insight.  Just to give you an example, here are a few nuggets of insight I appreciated:

  • The Miami Heat’s Shane Battier earns a phenomenal 88 percent of his points from three-pointers.
  • When playing together, the Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul, Matt Barnes, and Jamal Crawford produce the league’s most efficient fourth-quarter net rating – that’s the difference in how many points a team scores and gives up per 100 possessions – at +33.4.
  • The Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving takes advantage of more team possessions (52 percent) than any other player when there are less than 5 minutes of play remaining and only 5 points difference between the winning and losing team.

See what I mean?  Data is just data, bits and bytes of information that accumulate exponentially but have no inherent value.  The examples I cited demonstrate how specific this data can be applied in order to gain valuable insight and empower you to take action.  If you were coaching a team playing against the Heat, Clippers, or Cavaliers, how would you change your strategy based the insight you obtained?

Actionable Insight is the Key

If you haven’t guessed where I’m going with this by now, actionable insight is the key to success in professional sports and in retail.  Not just insight based on historical trends, but also based on how events unfold in real time.  I’ve been talking more and more about the critical importance of knowing your customer in order to deliver the right merchandise to the right place at the right time.  The only way you’re going to be able to do that is by capturing your customers’ statistical history and applying insight obtained in real-time.

Imagine every scrap of data that can be collected from just one of your customer’s shopping runs at your point of sale: the combination of products they bought, the retail price, discount price, coupons used, payment method, store location, the amount of time since they last shopped there, and so on.  Now imagine how much data got collected in one hour from all shoppers at that store.  Or all week at that store.  Or all year in all your stores.  Just like the NBA, retailers haven’t had the processing power to get real insight out of that data. 

That all changes with SAP HANA.  Thinking back to the phenomenally detailed basketball insight I highlighted, imagine the kind of unique and actionable statistics you can derive about your customers.  If you were managing a store equipped with this kind of insight, how would you change your strategy to focus on your customers and increase profits? 

Let this be your season to turn data into insight and win like never before.

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