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SAP Courts Pro Sports With Scouting App

Cloud-based app, co-developed with the San Francisco 49ers, gives SAP one more inroad into the high-profile world of sports.
New England Patriots Sport Championship Tech
New England Patriots Sport Championship Tech
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How many organizations need SAP Scouting, a new application designed to help sports franchises identify and acquire talent? If you add up all the professional teams across sports and across continents, it doesn't seem like a huge potential market, but these are truly high-profile customers that will raise SAP's visibility among millions of fans.

Take the San Francisco 49ers, the beloved Bay-area team that recently came within five yards of winning the Super Bowl. SAP recently partnered with the 49ers to create SAP Scouting, a new application introduced on Friday at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston (an event that SAP sponsored). SAP Scouting is a cloud-based analytic application that gives executives, coaches, trainers and scouts a way to enter and access player evaluations. The 49ers helped spec out app capabilities in preparation for the 2013 NFL Draft.

"The SAP Scouting app takes something that's a 10- or 12-step process and makes it a four- or five-step process," said Paraag Marathe, chief operating officer of the 49ers, during a panel discussion at the MIT Sloan conference. "There are reams of data on players, but it synthesizes all of that information and makes it clear and easy to understand for a scout, a coach or the ownership. That's really important, because otherwise it's paralysis by analysis."

[ Want more on MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference? Read 4 Analytics Lessons From Professional Sports. ]

The version developed for the 49ers, and now available to other NFL teams, pulls together disparate data from multiple league databases plus external other sources including NCAA all-star reports. Teams then add coach assessments, scouting reports and other proprietary information to customize the app to their needs. This single source of player and prospect insight then provides dashboard-style analysis options that let users quickly explore the strengths, weaknesses and potential market value of more than 12,000 player prospects.

One key appeal of the app, according to Marathe, is the fact that it can serve up all this information on mobile devices.

"Scouts are on the road 250 days a year, so they're always working remotely from colleges and universities," he said. "They need to have easy access to clear information, and then we, in the front office, get easy access to the scouts and what they're saying about players."

SAP Scouting runs on the Hana in-memory database, an infrastructure choice that SAP said ensures rapid drill-down analysis, searching and multi-prospect comparative analyses across quantitative and qualitative measures and assessments. Despite the apps's football roots, SAP said the player-based data model will be easily adaptable to any sport.

But what's the advantage for any one team if the app is widely available?

"The technology simplifies the process, but the basic, human expertise in evaluating players and in choosing what information to compile will always remain the core competency of the teams, coaches and scouts" Amit Sinha, VP of SAP Hana solution marketing, told InformationWeek.

SAP is rapidly adding customers to its new SAP Sports and Entertainment vertical practice. The company has supplied BusinessObjects analytics technology to Major League Baseball for several years, and it recently struck up a relationship with the NBA, which is using Hana as the underpinning of a new Stats.NBA.com site that lets basketball fans interactively explore game and player statistical data going back to the start of the association in 1946.