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By 2 April 2019 | Categories: feature articles

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We’ve heard it many times – there is no industry that will not be touched by digital transformation, if it hasn’t already been so. That truism still holds true, with the South African sporting arena being the latest industry to feel digital transformation’s impact.

Indeed, it was a major focus at Microsoft’s Cloud for Africa event last week, with Microsoft detailing its new partnerships with South African Rugby and Team Dimension Data and how cloud, and Office 365, will be leveraged to drive digital transformation in rugby and cycling respectively.

Admittedly, when watching or playing sports, you may not think that cloud, IoT, mobile or big data are a big part of whether the sport succeeds or loses popularity. However, that is exactly what is happening, with the technologies being used across the board, shaping how sport is played, coached, watched and experienced.

Tending the team

“Being the new Cloud Partner for SA Rugby and Team Dimension Data allows these sports organisations to use technology to connect with fans, improve their services, establish new revenue streams, and more,” elaborated Asif Valley, national technology officer at Microsoft.

More specifically, the company detailed that the partnership with Dimension Data cycling will see Office 365 being used by Team Dimension Data as the collaboration platform across all roles in the team which is central to managing the team both locally and abroad through its highly mobile team.

“As an organisation that races around 280 days in a calendar year on six continents and employs nearly 80 riders and staff scattered around the world, Office 365 is the perfect platform with which to manage our global team,” enthused Douglas Ryder, team principle at Team Dimension Data.

For the fans

While the focus on the cycling side may be on leveraging technology to assist the team, for rugby, technology is being used to more effectively engage with fans. Microsoft explained that “SA Rugby is digitally transforming its business to create value for its fans and partners over the long term, with a game-changing strategy to become a trusted, fan-centric organisation.”

To this end, Microsoft and SA Rugby explained that a “fan engagement solution” has been slated to replace SA Rugby’s current web site.

Part of this will be a new site that is can provide a comprehensive set of digital marketing tools, a holistic view of customer needs, and machine learning-generated insights. This will culminate in an aggregated database of fans with whom SA Rugby can engage so as to enrich their experience of the game, while creating commercial value for SA Rugby and its partners.

Looking ahead

While we don’t have specific details of what the digital engagement offerings will look like as yet, SA Rugby did divulge that it will partner with Accenture and rely on Azure IAAS, WebApps, WebLogic, Azure Service Bus, Dynamics CRM and an ISV solution Sitecore to develop its new platform.

“The partnership with Microsoft will create an opportunity for us to develop innovative solutions to do things that weren’t possible previously,” noted Jurie Roux, chief executive officer of SA Rugby.

According to Microsoft, the partnerships form a strategic part of the company’s goal of being a global leader in sports technology, while fulfilling its  stated mission of “empowering organisations to do more” by accelerating the value imagined and realised from their digital experience.

“Microsoft is committed to our country and the power of sport to change the world. Sport has the power to unite people in a way that little else does and by working together we can unlock opportunities where sport, business, experience and technology intersect,” concluded Valley.

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