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Product and Topic Expert
Product and Topic Expert
On the business front, the San Jose Sharks are focused on keeping fans happy — and with smart data management, they’re doing better than ever.

The world of professional sports is more than just fun and games. The industry encompasses everything from parking to in-house restaurants to maintaining huge stadiums. Sports franchises are increasingly turning to data-driven management models to keep things running smoothly.

The San Jose Sharks hockey team has been on the ice in California since 1991. In those 30 years they’ve seen a huge shift in how they do business and what’s needed to keep fans happy. In our latest Better Together episode, I chatted with Neda Tabatabaie, Vice President, Business Analytics & Technology at San Jose Sharks, about digital transformation in sport and the Shark’s data-driven playbook.

  • In the podcast, we talk about the data-driven shifts across the industry as well as why and how the Sharks made data a priority. As well, we discuss the future of digital transformation in sport and the importance of the people behind the data.

  • In the LinkedIn session, we cover the specific technology that helped the Sharks become a data-driven operation and how other organizations can make the switch. Neda walks us through their digital transformation and the technologies that underpin their success.

Here are a few key takeaways from our conversations. Listen to the full versions to get even more insight and advice.

The Future Depends on Data

The future of business depends on data. But it isn’t enough to collect it, produce graphs and reports, and call it a day. Neda nails down three must-haves to make the most of your data. It needs to be:

  • Meaningful: In order to produce accurate insights, you need to understand your customers, employees, vendors, and even the surrounding community. Getting to know your business culture is key to making sense out of the data you collect.

  • Unified: Most businesses are mini conglomerates, each with its own needs and goals. “The biggest challenge is all of these data sources are almost all third-party vendors; each of them are different,“ Neda explains. “Each of them have a different level of technology, savviness and different availabilities and different platforms.” Knocking down data silos and working from one unified source of truth creates internal harmony and smoother customer experiences.

  • Actionable: The Sharks don’t just use data to understand their customers, they also collect data to find solutions. Neda describes the experiments they run to learn how to solve common problems and the continuous refinements needed afterward.

People + Tech = Success

Different roles require different kinds of information, and needs fluctuate all the time. This is true for internal vendors and employees as well as traditional customers. As tech develops, expectations for personalization and ease of access grow right along with it.

We both agree that tools like machine learning (ML) will be vital in the future to automate routine tasks and make others more efficient. At the same time, people are still needed to evaluate the conclusions and predictions of ML. As Neda puts it:

“You can be the best analyst ever, technically speaking, but you have to have those human relationship skills. They call them “soft skills,” but I don't really think it's “soft.” It's the ability to translate what you're doing into something meaningful for somebody else.”

Choose the Right Tech for Your Business

When you’ve decided to take your data to the next level, it can be challenging to figure out where to start. Neda offers this advice:

  • Identify the most significant pain point and work to solve that problem first.

  • Build on your SAP infrastructure to include different business sectors and unify your data.

  • Use ML predictions and data analysis to guide future actions.

Neda explains one of the fundamental technologies adopted by the Sharks:

“We have a data warehouse with SAP analytics, that is unifying all of our data sources across the organization into a more digestible, easily accessible portal. Now, people across the organization can access the data that they need when they need it.”

Score Big with Data

Whether you are just starting your digital transformation or looking to improve your existing solutions, high-quality, unified data with the right tech stack is essential. As the Sharks have shown, better data management leads to winning solutions.

Interested in additional success where sports and technology intersect?

  • EquiRatings: A global equestrian technology company which provides data-driven solutions for Olympic teams, governing bodies and equestrian fans.

  • San Francisco 49ers: Redefining the fan experience with real-time data

Register at to check out the podcast and the LinkedIn session. And remember, I’m always looking for feedback! Let me know topics you’d like to hear about and suggest questions we should be asking. You can also contact us if you’d like to be a guest on an episode. Join us to hear customers share their candid stories with SAP Business Technology Platform.