Earlier this year, Peters & Associates and the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA) began a partnership through Microsoft’s Community Connections program. Together, we’re providing guidance and advice to NSGA’s member organizations on leveraging technology to improve their businesses. The NSGA is an industry group made up of manufacturers and retailers of sporting equipment and accessories. This group also includes team dealers – the folks that help procure equipment and uniforms for sports teams.

Last week, I joined the NSGA at their annual Management Conference & Team Dealer Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona. This was a great opportunity for me to meet many of their members for the first time and gain a better understanding of the challenges that the industry faces. Here are some of my takeaways from a great couple of days in sunny Arizona.

Challenges and Opportunities

Like a lot of industries, the sporting goods industry has a paradoxical relationship with technology. Of course, technology lays the foundation for groundbreaking innovation that drives any industry forward. Technology also enables incremental improvements. It allows us to complete work faster, reduce mistakes, and share information more broadly. In short, technology helps businesses improve efficiency. However, as was discussed at the conference, technology also opens the doors to new competitors and threatens existing revenue streams. The growth of online shopping, 3D printing, and other automation all represent challenges that this industry must overcome. The organizations that adopt new technologies and get in front of trends will be well positioned to defeat these obstacles.

The topic of discussion for my presentation at the conference was “how technology can improve internal business efficiency.” This is a broad topic, too broad to be explored effectively in a single presentation. So, I approached it from a different angle. How do you know what your inefficiencies are? How can you identify them?

One of the many advancements that have resulted from technology is an increase in the amount of data at our fingertips. Data is created with every transaction, search result, turn of the conveyor belt, and every decision. With the help of technology, this data is being captured and is available for us to mine. Not to mention, the vast amount of research data that NSGA can provide. Organizations are presented with the challenge of gathering and interpreting that mass of data for informed decision making.

A simplified approach to leveraging data might look like this:

  1. Collection – Identify the sources of data available to you and determine how that data is collected or can be collected.
  2. Translation – A team effort, translation requires that subject matter experts and business decision makers review the collected data and define what it means.
  3. Visualization – Lastly, collected data is not easily digested. Organizations can use standard data tools – like Excel – to present easy-to-understand charts, tables, and key metrics for decision making.

This is a loose, simple outline to help break down business intelligence. There are obviously multiple tasks under each of these steps. However, hopefully this can help you to get started on your journey of leveraging your data.

The first step for any organization that is getting started on this path is to identify your data sources. If you need assistance during any step of the way, Peters & Associates is happy to help. You can give us a call at 630.832.0075 or email us at info@peters.com.