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What businesses can learn from the Rugby World Cup 2015

The Rugby World Cup, one of the world’s most prestigious sporting events, will be hosted this year on our own fair shores in England. And it’s set to be bigger and better than ever, with more than 466,000 visitors expected throughout the tournament. These tourists, their pockets bursting with spending money, will bring with them over £869 million to pump into our economy.

Rugby is great. The players don’t wear helmets or padding; they just beat the living daylights out of each other and then go for a beer. I love that.
Joe Theismann

You don’t need sophisticated analysis tools to tell you that the Rugby World Cup means boom time for local businesses, but being in a position to tackle this opportunity is more complicated. Managing sales spikes has long been an issue for all manner of businesses and while planning is essential, it can only go so far – markets are dynamic and changeable, so this means you must be as well.

Getting your angles right

Perhaps the best example of capitalising on a short-term window of opportunity comes from the sporting arena – though not necessarily rugby. Back during the 2010 Football World Cup, manufacturers were quick to take advantage of the crowd’s enthusiasm for the vuvuzela, a noisy plastic horn favoured by local South African football fans. By being quick enough to spot the trend, many retailers were able to generate vast profits, selling hundreds of thousands of vuvuzelas before concerns over noise intensity – thanks in part to the volume in which the horns were sold – led to them being banned from stadiums and events across the world.

Tapping into the trends is only half the battle. Ensuring that you can meet demand – without running out or being left with surplus stock – presents a tougher challenge.

While demand planning was traditionally a rigid top-down, complex process without much flexibility, today’s decisions now have to be made in a more agile way. Thanks to their ubiquity, spreadsheets have become the de facto planning tool and used across any number of departments or functions. And while they may be the weapon of choice for many smaller companies, it’s important to remember that they were never designed for that job – they were designed to be a personal productivity tool!

Recycling the ball quickly

Instead of spreadsheets, some businesses have resorted to building complex custom analytics tools. In many cases, years are spent fine-tuning these applications, eventually to the detriment of the business since the initial developer of the complex codes probably left the company long ago.

When it comes to adding agility, cloud computing now offers the most compelling argument. Real-time updates allow the entire team to be involved in collaborating on the best approach whilst sharing accountability for the results as they are realized. The on-demand resources of the cloud provide retailers with unprecedented scale and the ability to cost-effectively manage and process data volumes that were previously unthinkable. To borrow an example from rugby: when you are camped on the opposition’s try line, you want to recycle the ball quickly so you can maintain your competitive advantage – playing a slow ball gives the opposition time to get back into shape. Cloud computing is the business equivalent of the ‘quick ball’.

Re-forecasting tomorrow based on today’s results, pivoting the business based on changing environments, and having the tools you’ve built automatically change with you are all paramount in maintaining a competitive advantage in today’s business landscape. With peaks in trading around special events unlikely to fade at any point, it’s essential for businesses to be prepared – and there’s no excuse not to with the tools available.

Has your experience playing or watching sports impacted the way you do business? Tell us your story!

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