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Why IoT is like rugby

Nigel Harley
By Nigel Harley - June 19, 2020

SAG_IoT_Rugby_Twitter_Jun20Why is the Internet of Things like rugby? Because, in both, it is important to train, learn and evolve.

While watching a re-run of a previous Rugby Union 6-Nations match with my son during lockdown, I was struck by some similarities between training for the game and learning to use the IoT for business. The continuous process of training and learning new skills for rugby relate well to evolving the outcomes in an IoT project.

My son and I were debating England’s dynamic tactics and rules around the ruck. The ruck is where the attacking team is tackled and then drops to the ground; the defending team then attempts to get the ball and protects it by "rucking over.” The players bind together and form an immovable huddle over the tackled player and ball. If successful in defending, they then recycle the ball for the next passage of play.

My son plays in a local junior team. He compared his early season training with what England was doing, with small moves across the pitch, taking tackles, keeping the ball and consistently recycling. My son's team has not yet mastered the skills to be consistent with winning the rucks. I help with coaching their team and explained that Junior rugby is an ongoing process of learning new skills, introducing new aspects each year.

The English RFU has age graded matches - where from the age of 5 they learn the basic handling; at a later age kicking is introduced and then lineouts etc. with new rules and tactics. The idea is that when they reach the age of 16, they are playing the full game with all the rules and also understand the complex tactics and dynamics of the game. They have grown their skills, knowledge and enjoyment of the game.

Because each player can only contribute as part of team, they cannot control the outcome, or individually control the final result. Only the process of training can be controlled and managed over time.

IoT and rugby

In the world of deploying IoT solutions, the same principles apply – except the goal is a business outcome, such as increased revenue. The solution outcome is a more connected customer in retail, or frictionless movement in logistics, or an optimized process that has a high productivity in manufacturing.

To achieve this, the company needs to start with a simple solution with a small number of data points, the outcomes are evolved as part of the “training process.” By adding more data and different sources over time, the business then grows its benefit from the insights and outcomes.

The company learns how to use these outcomes, and over time the company’s strategies and business priorities change - hence the goals change. So, an IoT based solution needs to continuously evolve. Over time the solution becomes integral to the business and its use becomes taken for granted. New applications evolve and new insights are unlocked.

After 9 years of playing rugby my son does not consciously think on how to tackle, or how to pass a ball effectively - those skills have been honed. He now thinks about the passage of play, what is necessary to expose a weakness in defense… These are all data inputs, which result in applying tactics on the insights he is seeing during a fast, dynamic game.

Training, learning from experience and making changes based on that learning, is what makes a good player, a good team – and a good IoT strategy.  

Download our report, Why IoT projects fail and how to beat the odds, based on findings from a study by Beecham Research, for more insights on winning IoT strategies.

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