Gary Lineker likes the quote: “Football is a simple game played over 90 minutes…and in the end the Germans win”.
That was certainly the case at this summer’s World Cup when “Der Manschaft” as the team is known roared to victory in Brazil. But apart from the class of Kroos and Klose, and the glory of Gotze there was also a big role for big data.
In sport and many areas of life data analytics is taking an even more central role.
The German team used a specially developed tool called Match Insights. This analyses video data from on-field cameras, capable of capturing thousands of data points per second, including player position and speed. That data then goes into an SAP database that runs analytics and allows coaches to target performance metrics for specific players and give them feedback via their mobile devices.
It was also widely reported before they walloped Brazil 7-1 that the German FA that had spent years working with a German University to gather extensive data on how their opponents would play and react it certain situations. (“Badly” was presumably the result of the analysis!)
In 2012 Liverpool FC hired a director of research, who has a PhD in theoretical physics. The analysts are involved in pre-match preparation and post-game debriefs; they help to identify transfer targets and devise strategies for nurturing young players.
Of course for many this started with the bestselling book Moneyball from Michael Lewis which told the story of Billy Beane, the general manager of an unfashionable baseball team, the Oakland A’s, who was using new statistics to evaluate players and strategies.
But of course it is not just in the world of sport that data analytics is becoming more and more important. For example in healthcare data analytics is vital. Computer-assisted genome sequencing provides big data and analytics and is helping cure diseases with lower costs and less risk.
In traffic management and town planning GPS data helps keep the roads and cities moving.
In fighting crime, police departments are currently using big data technology to develop predictive models about when and where crimes are likely to occur, allowing them to deploy officers to prevent crimes, helping to reduce the overall crime rate in specific locations.
In marketing and commerce when we go for shopping our loyalty card data is combined with our purchase history & social media data to give us coupons, discounts and personalised offers.
Oh and of course there’s that whole internet thing which essentially amounts to oceans of big data that organisations of all types are trying to understand and benefit from.
So it’s a growing area but also one with a significant skills gap.
In Ireland up to 21,000 data analytics jobs could be generated between now and 2020, according to new research by Forfas and the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN).
There is also much evidence on the ground of companies struggling to find enough people with the deep analytical skills that they need. The type of Jobs in the sector usually involves proficiency in areas like maths, statistics and management science, as well as other IT skills.
There are opportunities for the individual to take advantage of these shortages. Analytics and Big Data skills are one of the areas targeted in the current round of government funded Springboard and ICT skills courses.
If you are interested in this area you can undertake a fully accredited part-time course free of charge. These courses are available for those who are unemployed but also for people in employment under the ICT Skills scheme.
National College of Ireland have a Higher Diploma in Data Analytics for people with degrees in different areas who would like to transfer into the world of big data. There is also a Postgraduate Diploma in Data Analytics for graduates with technical or mathematical skills looking for a postgraduate qualification in the area.
There are a limited number of free places available. As an example Majella Donlon had been working in accounts for several years but she decided she wanted a career change. Based on her comfort with numbers and the opportunities in the area she decided to undertake the Higher Diploma in Data Analytics at NCI. She really enjoyed the course and it led to that career change. She is now working in the insurance industry at the The Aon Centre for Innovation and Analytics. You can see her talk about her experience here.
So there are certainly opportunities.
If you have a level of comfort with numbers and analysis based on your previous experience then this may be an area to consider. Who knows you might even end up assisting the Ireland team to world domination in the next World Cup. Well, we have to dream as well as analyse, right?
Robert Ward is Director of Marketing and Student Recruitment at National College of Ireland (NCI) in Dublin’s IFSC.