For film fanatics, it’s that highly anticipated time of the year again: Oscar time. The nominations are in, and the awards show is quickly approaching, airing this Sunday. The Best Picture nominations list, unsurprisingly, never fails to round up an impressive collection of the ”best of the best” and this year is no different, including films like The Artist, Midnight in Paris, and Hugo, to name a few. At Cataphora, we’re particularly excited that Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, also made the cut. If you didn’t get a chance to see the film, we encourage you to take a look at the movie trailer. The story follows General Manager Billy Beane as he attempts to rebuild the Oakland Athletics baseball team after an upsetting playoff loss to the New York Yankees in 2001. Operating on a shoestring budget, Beane realizes that he cannot rely on traditional scouting techniques to find the talent he needs; instead, “we got to think differently,” he says. Historically, “subjectivity ruled the day in [terms of] evaluating players.” With the help of Yale-educated economist and statistician Peter Brand, Beane reinvents the system by using a “statistics-based formula for choosing potential players.” You might be wondering, what does this have to do with Cataphora? If you’re intimately familiar with our technology, you know that we don’t use mathematical or statistical analysis, and if you’re even remotely familiar with Cataphora as a company, you know that we have absolutely nothing to do with baseball. And yet, we have everything to do with cutting-edge, Big Data analytics, which is, ultimately, what this film is about.
How can we leverage the data available to analyze, understand and uncover new insights about the people in a particular organizational context? One of my favorite quotes from the film is Peter Brand’s confident statement: “I believe there is a championship team that we can afford, because everyone else undervalues them, like an island of misfit toys.” During the film, I explicitly remember thinking about how this relates to Cataphora’s technology in terms of identifying undervalued thought leaders. Through our technology, we can identify less-obvious influencers in an organization – those that might be undervalued, despite the fact that they’re creating valuable, widely distributed content on a regular basis. Today, as the work paradigm increasingly shifts towards a virtual and global one, it’s tough to really get an accurate and objective bird’s-eye view of employee performance. Our technology does that, functioning as a type of “digital talent scout” to uncover true thought leaders within an organization. Albeit a slightly different scenario, Beane and Brand also use a data-driven approach to find these undervalued players who, in the aggregate, form a surprisingly solid team.
On a broader level, this story is about challenging a system that has been in place for 150 years, innovating, and taking a risk on the off chance that you’ll succeed. Beane clearly disrupted the way we think about the game of baseball; he applied business intelligence in a seemingly technophobic industry and for that, he is recognized as an innovator (and rightfully so). Today, more and more organizations are recognizing the value of integrating Big Data analytics into their business model and using them to streamline their business processes. Big Data analytics is not just another trend. As noted by Steve Lohr in a recent New York Times article, titled “The Age of Big Data,” “there seems to be no turning back. Data is in the driver’s seat. It’s there, it’s useful and it’s valuable, even hip.” We’re moving towards a model where implementing Big Data analytics into your organization’s operations will be just another requirement to compete successfully, and those who fail to adapt will simply get left behind.