Data analytics taking RBS 6 Nations to next sporting level

26 February 2016

With the first two rounds of RBS 6 Nations now complete, the pre-tournament excitement has proved justified, with this year's Championships already fulfilling the promise to be the closest and most thrilling for many years.

The first two weekends saw England learn to win again after a bitterly disappointing home World Cup, with Eddie Jones' team following a pragmatic win against a Scotland team with a rather more comfortable victory against Italy. Elsewhere, France began their recovery from a World Cup thumping at the hands of the All Blacks by joining England at the top of the table, inching past both Italy and Ireland, and Wales established themselves as the early leaders among the Celtic powers.

All six teams are still seeking to prove that Northern Hemisphere rugby can match the excitement and success of its Southern counterparts, and have now begun to build towards the next World Cup in Japan. As the close early results show, they are having to confront an increasingly competitive environment, with the gap between the traditional powers and rising nations closing. There was no better example of this during the World Cup than the shock win by Japan against South Africa, a victory built on a tight tactical game plan.

Rugby 6 Nations

In this environment, technology and analysis are becoming increasingly integral to adding the final 5 percent to performance and finding a competitive advantage. Thanks to the increased use of data and analytics, it is becoming ever easier to look at variables such as 'how long did the fly-half hold onto the ball before release?' which can provide a deeper understanding of a team's performance than traditional statistics such as possession, territory, and tackles made.

This is not only to the advantage of coaches and players; fans also want a more in-depth experience, and the rise of multi-screen viewing means they want more content and more detail than ever before. In an age where attention spans are being squeezed, sports need to compete for that attention by using a variety of approaches including new technology to engage fans.

This cutting-edge technology - from never seen before in-depth data and statistics through to virtual reality - is enabling coaches, players, and fans to analyse, improve, and enjoy the game more than ever before.

Some sports teams have even been experimenting with new and different innovative approaches, including using drones to film training sessions to get an ever better view. With each advancement in technology, sport also takes a leap forward, from athletes recovering from injuries in oxygen tents to an analytical approach that is often associated with the boardroom. While all sports apply these methods to some degree, rugby has advanced significantly in recent years.

Rugby-6-Nations logo

This year's Rugby 6 Nations will benefit from ever more advanced analysis. Accenture's team will process approximately 2 million rows of data for each and every match to deliver unique insights into game-changing moments throughout the tournament. Until recently, this kind of analysis would only have been available to the players and coaches of those teams who used it to evaluate their performance throughout the Championship, but now it will also be available to fans through the Six Nations app.

Technology and analytics is becoming increasingly important in all sports, but our unique analysis is putting the RBS 6 Nations at the forefront of this movement, to the benefit of players, coaches and fans. After an interesting start, I can't wait to enjoy more confrontations, tries, controversies, and of course, the analysis of it all.

An article from Nick Millman, Managing Director Big Data & Analytics Delivery for Europe Africa Latin America at Accenture.



How data insights helped Network Rail improve the South-East route

11 April 2019

Amey Consulting has leveraged data insights to assist Network Rail with the improvement of its South-Eastern route. Using the Quartz tool, which monitors train movement, Network Rail will now be able to commit to data-enabled interventions to quickly improve underperforming train stations.

With rail services in the UK coming under strain from the demands of modern commuter life, while the infrastructure and service delivery of the nation’s railways has come in for sustained criticism in recent years, a period of regeneration is on the cards at last. Network Rail is the owner and infrastructure manager of most of the railway network in Great Britain, and has subsequently tapped the consulting industry on a regular basis to help find areas of improvement.

The group recently drafted in consultancy BearingPoint to conduct a thorough organisational evaluation and advise Network Rail (High Speed) on attaining a ‘fit for purpose’ organisational standard – for which the consultancy was nominated at the 2019 MCA Awards. Meanwhile, ArupArcadis and Aecom have been contracted to help Colas Rail and Babcock Rail implement a decade-long framework for Network Rail, aimed at supporting the delivery of the next generation of rail systems, with the contracts said to be worth as much as £5 billion

How data insights helped Network Rail improve the South-East route

As Network Rail further aims to improve its performance and customer service offering, another area it has sought help from the consulting sector for is its South-East route. The network of railways connects London with the southern parts of the country, as well as with Europe, making it the busiest in the country, with more than 500 million passenger journeys per year. This crucial expanse of rail was plagued with small minute delays, which were impacting millions of passengers every day, while reducing the efficiency and capacity of the overall network – something Amey Consulting was selected to help solve.

Amey Consulting soon determined that with the sub-threshold delays to services only lasting for 1 or 2 minutes, most were not the subject of detailed root cause analysis, and this made their corrections almost impossible – with dire consequences. Without addressing these delays, passenger satisfaction would fall, while the capacity and efficiency of the network would be reduced, stinging the income of Network Rail even before a host of delay-related fines would hit the company.

In order to help the client gain a better understanding of where, how, when and what these small delays occur, Amey Consulting looked to demonstrate the value of data-led consulting, with a significant reduction in delays within the first month of rolling out changes to key stations. The consultants embedded themselves in Network Rail’s team, helping them learn the key skills needed to support and apply data-driven solutions.

Agile transport

This involved the deployment of the Quartz tool. The system utilises to-the-second train movement data to present the performance of individual stations across the South-East route. It allows users to effortlessly understand station performance with a high level of detail, and use this information to identify losses caused by small-minute delays. The granular data allows for targeted actions to drive efficiency savings and performance improvements. More importantly, it allows users to understand the impact of small process changes on performance. 

Steve Dyke, an Executive Partner at Amey Consulting, said of the project, “We looked to identify the physical root cause on the infrastructure, building a case for change then managing that project implementation and tracking the benefit/value.  In doing so we are working to define a data performance improvement service to the operational and infrastructure owners.”

Just as important for the project as the technology, however, was teaching the Network Rail team how to leverage it after the consultants were gone. The Amey Consulting team worked to develop an agile working culture within Network Rail’s South-East division, helping staff to be confident in using data to improve the journeys of millions of people per year by attacking the problem from the ground up.

Dyke concluded, “This is less about the tools and about the approach to managing performance.  It meant using by-the-second analysis, data science, and then agile development to visualise and identify areas where improvements can be made.  We then worked with NR to change the way they approached the management of the infrastructure changes.  So rather than pass the information down the value chain, any of which could have been missed, we managed the change end-to-end.”

The project was so successful that Amey Consulting was also among those honoured at the recent MCA Awards. The firm scooped the Performance Improvement in the Public Sector prize for its work with Network Rail, at the 2019 ceremony in London.