Into the Future: How data can help you run your company like a winning sports team

Data and analytics are popular in sports these days. How can they help your company?

Anyone who has seen or read Moneyball has witnessed how data and analytics have transformed the science of winning in sports. This was further evident in the most recent NFL season. In the past, fourth down and short yardage remaining resulted in teams punting the football away to the other team. In the 2023/24 season, this same circumstance often resulted in teams going for a first down instead. The reason for this fundamental change in football is that analytics have informed coaches that going for it has led to winning more often than punting the ball away.

In business, data and analytics have for many years helped leaders optimize their cost structure, marketing approaches and customer understanding. However, when it comes to a company’s workforce, data and analytics have been woefully inadequate. Luckily, this shortcoming is beginning to be addressed thanks to innovations being achieved through AI and analytics.

Workforce analytics before the new millennium

When I first entered the management ranks, the only workforce analytics available to us were survey-based. Engagement surveys, as they are often called, were conducted once or twice a year to illuminate a team’s views on matters ranging from their commitment to the company to how satisfied they were with their compensation. While this was useful data, it was limited in its depth, frequency and how actionable it was.

Second-generation workforce analytics—2000 through 2020

The next 20 years saw the advent of software systems that provided new levels of workforce intelligence. These included performance management systems that tracked the ability of teams to deliver against key performance indicators, skills inventory and upgrading systems, and sales funnel platforms that enabled you to track the progress of your sales team in hitting their revenue goals. These systems delivered real-time data with more depth and actionable information, yet they lacked the ability to offer insights that senior leaders didn’t already instinctively know.

Third-generation workforce analytics and the AI revolution

One of the many spectacular breakthroughs that AI platforms have enabled is the ability to undertake rapid pattern recognition across multitudes of data. This is enabling a new generation of analytics solutions to equip business leaders with data about optimizing their workforce that is as valuable as the data they have long relied on to inform them about their financials and customers.

In the case of Impro.AI, a company that I am personally involved with, our clients are offered insights about their workforce’s strengths, weaknesses and alignment with the company’s strategy, as well as the opportunities and threats facing their company. There are also many other exciting solutions for leaders to consider, such as Gong, which monitors sales conversations in order to identify best practices and training opportunities for sales leaders to implement, all thanks to AI-powered pattern recognition.

Winning in business through data

Many companies say their most important asset is their workforce, but it’s also often their costliest asset. Thanks to advances in AI and analytics, leaders now have the opportunity to optimize the diversity, health and performance of their teams. I believe the most successful businesses in 2024 and beyond will be those that listen to the analytics across their financials, customers and workforce—and go for it on fourth down more often as a result.