The sporting achievements of top athletes often appear effortless, with each goal on target, photo finish or unstoppable ace seeming like a celebration of their natural talent. Yet in reality, these individual triumphs are the culmination of not only an intensive training regime, but detailed data analysis, painstakingly reviewed and interpreted by coaches whose role it is to translate that talent into success.
Every aspect of a professional athlete’s performance is tracked and analysed in great detail today, with nothing left to chance. KPIs such as training intensity and volume, sleep quality and duration, nutrition, hydration and stress levels are routinely monitored in real-time. Data is benchmarked from their own sport and beyond, providing a rich data pool to mine, and dashboards highlight key areas of focus.
For most of us, the results would be overwhelming, but to elite coaches, they form the basis of an ever-deeper insight to the critical factors of an athlete’s success, and early warnings of anything that might have a negative impact on their performance, as well as indicating where an adjustment might yield greater rewards.
Not just data
At Cisco, we see that, as our customers digitise more and more, periodic reporting is not enough. They need a constant stream of data to track how their transformation strategies are performing. However, as we frequently hear when advising customers on how to optimize their networks, it is difficult enough to keep track of the huge volumes of data generated by their business systems, let alone glean useful insight from it. Data collection without insight has no value.
This is exactly why Cisco has launched a new analytics engine and analytics platform as part of our new Business Critical Services portfolio. It provides our customers with an online portal giving a near real-time view of the health of your network, by scanning relevant data such as device configurations, software and hardware platform information and syslogs, detecting anomalies and even predicting future issues. And it displays it all in a ‘good morning’ dashboard format that shows you at a glance what you need to know, just like your smartwatch or fitness tracker (check out our video demo):
But importantly, by combining your data with that of nearly 3 million connected devices, it also makes pre-emptive and predictive recommendations (not unlike a fitness tracker urging you to meet your daily step target), effectively allowing you to learn from others’ experiences. Adding another layer of value, Cisco Services engineers then use their experience to create actionable insights tailored to your business. This goes beyond ensuring business continuity, although that is of course essential, enabling an ongoing process of optimization, iterating improvements rather than just fixing problems after the fact.
Using the sports analogy, if your network was Roger Federer suffering a run of bad luck with his forehand (unlikely at his peak, I know), then Cisco’s analytics engine would have highlighted the downward trend and flagged the anomaly before he’d crashed out the world tour leader board.
The team of Cisco engineers (the masseuse, the nutritionist, the sport psychologist) would have been straight in there, constantly tweaking diet, body, mind to ensure performance levels were maintained, informed by similar patterns exhibited by his peers past and present.
Guided by their experience, they would have prioritized a list of recommendations to get him back on track, or to prepare for an upcoming tournament. These might include adjusting his grip, increasing the proportion of protein in his diet or additional upper body strength training. Enough to put him in the best possible position for his next Grand Slam victory — business as usual in his case.
Now analytics aren’t new, either to sport or to business. But the pace of digital change we are experiencing right now means that they are needed now more than ever before by our customers. In a recent Gartner CEO Survey, 57% of respondents said that building up technology and digital capabilities is critical to helping their company grow. Yet the well-documented digital skills gap makes that impossible to achieve in isolation, and so there is a real need for services like Business Critical Services that give targeted insights and ease the burden on stretched IT teams — instead of simply more and more tools that maxed-out IT teams have no time to use.
As the EMEAR service delivery lead for our Enterprise and Public Sector customers, I am excited about how the analytics capabilities of Cisco Business Critical Services, combined with the wealth of experience of our engineers, will help our customers lower costs and accelerate innovation as they transform for even greater success.