This week on the XLIVE Interview Series we sat down with Moon Javaid, Vice President, Strategy & Analytics for the San Francisco 49ers. We spoke to Moon about a number of topics from the importance of data & analytics for sports teams, how he uses data & analytics, and the types of technology he uses to make his job easier. Read the full interview below!
Can you tell us a little about your role for the 49ers, and what a typical day looks like for the VP of Strategy and Analytics for a professional sports team?
Moon Javaid is in his sixth season with the 49ers and currently serves as the vice president of strategy & analytics. In his role, Javaid oversees business intelligence, CRM and fan feedback; manages retail, mobile app, and concessionaire relationships; works on bids for large scale non-NFL events; supports the drive for local revenue; and aids other the business aspects of the organization with strategic and analytical support.
Under Javaid’s guidance, the 49ers built a data warehouse that processes over 3 million records per day, collaborated with ticket operations to break NFL records for highest revenue in a regular season game, secured bids for WrestleMania 31 and the Gold Cup Final, launched a sports medicine facility and launched a conference.
I know this sounds cliché, but the day to day for myself is different everyday depending on priorities and the needs of the department. I will generally have a day packed with meetings with various stakeholders making sure we are aligned on key objectives and priorities. I will then work with the team to ensure that we are all working towards the same vision. The greatest sense of fulfillment I get from my role is working with the 9 other members and watching them achieve their goals.
Can you talk about the importance of data & analytics for sports teams, and why some teams have been quick to incorporate an analytics/strategy division, and others have not?
I strongly believe in data & analytics across any industry – this is exactly why we launched a conference. To help this industry/division grow. There has been an explosive growth in technology and capabilities over the past decade which has allowed for many data scientists across industries to have more of a place within their company.
I believe that the growth in technology is meeting an industry in particular which has not leveraged data as much as other peer industries. I believe this mindset is changing and that executives are realizing the power of BSA teams. Remember, change is gradual. Think of the traditional innovation curve. I believe that our industry is within the early majority phase of growth of BSA.
Can you share some examples of how you use analytics at the 49ers?
We use data and analytics for a variety of purposes. We will use analytics to assess whether we should make an investment. We use analytics to help us determine what concession stands are not performing well. We use analytics to help inform us about ticketing strategies. We use analytics to help find efficiencies in cost savings on event days. We use analytics to understand fan sentiment. Analytics is an extremely broad term and there are many tools that are used to analyze. Excel, SAS, Python, R. It is rare (not sure if it exists) to find someone that is an expert at all tools. Therefore it is important to build a well rounded team so you can use the right tool for the right analysis.
How has technology changed your job, how has it helped, and has it made anything more difficult for you?
Technology has made my job possible. Without advances in data storage internet speeds, wifi – big data would not be feasible. It also does add more work! We can answer so many more questions than we could in our past. This creates a desire to ask all of these questions. With technology not being a limitation, you have to understand that time and resources are now the constraint and must adapt. It is now more than ever important to ask the right questions – not all of the questions.
What is the best part of your job, and what is most challenging?
The best part of my job is my team. I have a team of rockstars. Seeing them smile – makes my day. The most challenging is also my team J They are incredibly talented, smart individuals. How do I keep them all happy, fulfilled and make sure they are learning and growing.
What suggestions do you have for an organization that has not implemented any data aggregation tools or strategies and where to begin?
Take the first step. Looking at the finish line can be daunting. Find the right conductor for your train. Let them do the work. I would look for someone with a background in strategy consulting or investment banking. I am biased, as I came from that world. But there isn’t a better training ground out there to help inform strategic thinking, multi-tasking, prioritization and team building and mentorship.
In terms of data and analytics in the professional sports industry, which areas face the biggest challenges?
I am not sure what you mean by area. The biggest challenge isn’t the capabilities of the individuals. It’s the ability of us all to collectively collaborate with our stakeholders and foster an environment of trust.
What changes does your team look to make for the San Francisco 49ers over the next few years, which will help you better understand your fan base?
We have recently partnered with Happy or Not which I believe will be a game changer for understanding real-time analytics and can help us enhance our fan experience in real-time. Quick Plug – for more here – come to the innovation and business strategy conference where I will give a 20 minute talk on this subject!
Can you give us a bold prediction for analytics’ role in professional sports in 2018?
Nothing bold. It will grow. Ancillary technologies and companies will increase. Why do we need bold? We just need to grow. There is still so much low hanging fruit out there in the industry.
Who will be the 2018-2019 Super Bowl Champion?
Of course it’s the 49ers!