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How the Boston Red Sox win with data analytics

Shutterstock_311860862They might not have won the World Series this year, but the Boston Red Sox are definitely winning. As one of the highest-valued Major League Baseball franchises, the organization leverages the power of data analytics to make better business decisions. Tim Zue, the franchise’s Executive Vice President and CFO, recently shared in a Facebook Live interview how he uses technology and data to increase revenue, lower costs and optimize the fan experience. Here’s his advice on how finance leaders can use data analytics to bring greater value to their organizations and customers.

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Identify the problem you’re trying to solve.

Data can be a powerful tool if you know the question you’re trying to answer. If you don’t, you’ll end up with an extraordinary amount of mostly useless information. Zue recommends first identifying one or two problems you’re trying to solve. For the Boston Red Sox, it was learning more about their fans and their preferences to better align ticket prices to the market demand. Next, determine what data you already have access to and what data you need to find.

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Start small and go slowly.

You don’t have to be a large organization to leverage the power of data analytics. The Boston Red Sox are a medium-sized enterprise with finance, analytics and IT teams totaling about 40 people. Yet, the team is leveraging several new and emerging technologies to collect, report and analyze data. Zue says their journey to data analytics was only possible because he started small and proved his success to leadership one project at a time. He cautions finance leaders against jumping into a large data analytics project too fast. It’s easy to make an early mistake that can be devastating to the reputation of what you’re trying to achieve. His advice: Be patient and work to gain leadership buy-in slowly, one small win at a time.

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Tell your story well.

Your data could unveil groundbreaking insights. But if your CEO, board or other decision-makers can’t see how it will help them make a decision, you’ve missed the mark. Helping people make better decisions is the goal of data analytics. Zue says delivering data in an actionable, easy-to-read format is critical. His organization uses heat maps to show its owner which tickets are overpriced or underpriced. He’s also convinced leadership to use the Tableau app to see the team’s financial data through visualizations in real time. His boss can now check financials at any time with the tap of a button. This transparency helps speed along business decisions and builds trust.

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Make sure your team has the right skills.

Zue’s journey to the C-suite did not follow a traditional accounting path. That’s why he says it’s critical that he has people on his team who are accounting experts. This means accounting professionals who understand budgeting, forecasting, reporting and other essential accounting duties.  Zue also says it’s important that today’s accounting and finance professionals embrace a digital mindset. This means having knowledge of new and emerging technologies and understanding how to apply them within the context of finance. And, finally, he emphasizes the importance of “soft skills,” such as critical thinking, decision-making and collaboration.  When he hires someone for his team, he’s seeks someone with strong business partnering skills who is passionate, innovative and willing to try new approaches. 

Resources to help you

Zue said that having the right players with the right skill sets is a key component to a winning team. To help you build your own winning team, the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants® (the united voice of the AICPA and CIMA), delivers the latest insights, tools and resources. Here are a few for you to check out:

  • Closing the skills gap in data analytics — An interactive brochure that highlights how finance professionals can better leverage data to drive decision-making
  • CGMA® Digital Mindset Pack — The pack is a crash course on blockchain, robotic process automation and data-driven decision-making. This digital learning bundle carries 6 CPE hours and is free for CGMA designation holders.
  • CGMA Competency Framework — A roadmap to guide you and your team’s skills development
  • CGMA Finance Leadership Program — On-demand learning to help your team develop the digital, business, technical, leadership and people skills required for our digital era
  • CGMA Advantage newsletter — The latest financial and leadership insights delivered to your inbox five times a week

Colette Sharbaugh, Senior Manager - Communications & Public Relations, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

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