What is data-driven decision making?

The conception of “intuition” or just knowing when something is right or wrong, is seen in our society with great importance and influence. While intuition can trigger you down a certain path or discovery, it’s through data that you verify, understand, and quantify it. Though intuition can be a helpful tool, it would be risky to base all decisions around a bare gut feeling. Data-driven decision-making (abbreviated as DDDM) is the process of using data to inform your decision-making process and validate a course of action before committing to it, rather than relying on intuition or observation alone.

What is the difference between data-driven decision making and data-informed decision making? 

Both approaches are needed, when it comes to data-driven you let data guide your decision making while when it comes to data-informed you check data on your intuition and you always have the last word on it. There is a need for a combination of both because it would not be realistic to go fully automatic, the technology innovation has to support decision-makers rather than try to replace them.

What are the main advantages? 

First of all, we have to say that being data-driven does not mean replacing decision-makers but supporting them. Basically, it’s about leveraging data to make better decisions faster (in football but also in any other industry), you’ll make more confident decisions, you’ll become more proactive and you can realize cost savings. The great thing is that having a data set, such as historical data, can help you learn from your mistakes and allow you to refine the way you make decisions over time. 

Many people are still making decisions “from the gut”, which is still an important resource, but this can’t always work for large organisations. Mainly because most people cannot know everything, so it is good to make a data-driven decision that is informed and educated. For example, in sports science (to manage training and injury risk) if you don’t measure what you do you won’t be able to quantify the effort, so if an injury happens you won’t know what happened. If you can quantify it and see where the player got injured you can try to avoid it next time or you can improve his performance. 

From a financial point of view, the data-driven approach is fundamental because in this field decisions cannot be taken by intuition. In finance, the important thing is how to organise the data and how to analyse it, from a mountain of data the difference is made in the way they are displayed (e.g. through reports, dashboards, dynamic dashboards…) and basing decisions on them. 


Which factors in a club present the biggest barrier to being data-driven? 

Very often the main barrier to innovation is the internal culture. Most of the stakeholders are used to work in an old fashion way that is no longer effective and having the football industry a very slow turnover, we often find the same people in the same positions who are not open to innovation. The need today is to promote new values, in fact, little by little, football is learning to open up to other industries, building a multidisciplinary integration that will be fundamental in the implementation of a data-informed culture that was very much missing. The cultural resistance is due to the fact that people don’t want to do things differently or get out of their comfort zone, so the main effort to carry out this transition consists of relentless work convincing them about the benefits of this approach: positive criticism is good. 

On the performance side, this behaviour has not been helped by the technology providers over the years, because every time a new technology product comes out it is advertised as if everyone needs it. And what people usually do is adding new data getting overloaded where there is no place to integrate the data with the decision-making process.

How to implement an effective data-informed culture in a football organisation?

However, this culture is not achieved by simply choosing the appropriate analytics technology to identify the next strategic opportunity.

Your organization needs to make data-informed decisions creating a culture that encourages critical thinking and curiosity. People at every level have conversations that start with data and they develop their thoughts from there through practice and application. This requires a self-service model, where people can access the data they need, balanced with security and governance.

Is data still an untapped resource in most clubs today? 

Football is still at the starting point and very late compared to many other industries. All the information regarding the players from different points of view (how much he runs, how much he costs…) and the data relating to each department is kept separate and this is very ineffective because it is necessary to correlate them in order to obtain something that can bring added value to the organization. The main challenge (but also the greatest opportunity) is to create a structural process and gather all the information in one place (from the pitch to the board) to enhance the daily player management (performance) and asset management (finance) decisions. 

Will there be an increasing need to have someone in the role of Data Manager in the future? 

There will be an increasing need for Chief Technology Officer/Chief Innovation Officer, someone whose job it is to connect the dots between the different sectors. Someone who is a facilitator and smoothes the process between different departments in a club so that more educated and correct decisions can be made through the implementation of technology. This role can provide a great overview of all the technologies available and it will be possible to translate the needs of those working on the pitch to the digital need for the club. 

How to align a club decision making and organizational process with the data collected? 

It’s not about data or technology, it’s about people and culture: people need to be involved in a project and they need a structured process so they can work methodically. The task of technology is to smooth this process, but it always depends on who is using it and whether the company in question is structured or not, because if it does not have a process in place, it will not be possible to achieve effective results.

How does iterpro support a club’s this cultural transition? 

ITERPRO is not a data provider that just uses a black-box algorithm, its role is to help clubs in their transition to digital and support them in making better decisions faster to improve the club management. ITERPRO is more than one thing: it’s a database (a place where you can gather all your data), a management system (smoothing the workflow and facilitate the information sharing) and above all, it is a business intelligence software. It doesn’t just store data, but also turn them into action, making complex statistics available as simply information ready to be used, even by someone who is not technical.

Article Author: Lara Marinelli, Marco Savino