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Damian Smith, Head of IT, England and Wales Cricket Board

Path to power

 

I look after information and technology for the England and Wales Cricket Board, the national governing body for cricket. My remit includes high-performance sports science and medicine systems in support of England’s international teams; venue and match-day technology for international and domestic competitions; the digital technology that supports the recreational game for all players, coaches and officials; and the platforms that support the governance and management of the game, such as safeguarding and anti-corruption.  My career prior to the ECB started in defence for a number of years. I then worked in consultancy for a number of metadata management and business intelligence companies before joining KPMG Consulting as a management consultant working in telecoms, petro-chemical and exploration, investment banking and financial regulation. From there, I went into London Market Insurance for several years before entering the field of fast-moving consumer goods. The common thread running through the organisations with which I’ve worked is that they are information-rich. I have taken great delight in being part of programmes that have transformed the way that organisations and, in some cases, whole sectors operate, whether that is in the field of financial regulation or on the field of play.

 

What has been the highlight of your career in the industry to date?

 

Working in cricket, doing very little harm and, hopefully, a lot of good, is incredibly rewarding. I come to work at Lord’s Cricket Ground every day, so at times it doesn’t feel like a proper job. My personal highlight is the Women’s World Cup victory in 2017, when everything came together and women’s cricket penetrated the national consciousness to a similar extent as the men’s game: the team performed fantastically, the crowd was a sell-out with new audiences of children and families that hadn’t previously attended a cricket match, and a new generation of women and girls were inspired to pick up a bat and ball and play themselves. To know that everything from the performance systems through to the stadium wifi played a part in that success fills me with pride.

 

If you could give your younger self some advice about how to progress in this industry, what would it be?

 

Do stuff that makes you uncomfortable. When I look back at the times in my life that have been most rewarding and when I have felt most alive, the common thread is discomfort, challenge, even suffering. They’ve been times that have really tested me,and which I may or may not have come out on top, but from which I learned a great deal. These have been both work and play situations. Times when I’ve really scared myself and not felt in control, but which I have gone on to prevail. Times when I’ve deliberately put myself in uncomfortable situations, and times when I’ve found myself in tricky situations through no fault of my own. Time seems to flow differently in these situations as your body harnesses all your mental faculties to give you the best possible outcome. And, looking back, these have all been experiences that I don’t regret, which have shaped me.

 

Did 2018 turn out the way you expected? If not, in what ways was it different?

 

Not completely. AI and ML matured far faster than we had anticipated and we made great strides using these technologies towards the end of the year in the fields of security and performance analytics.

 

What do you expect 2019 to be like for the industry?

 

More of the same. More organisations shifting to the cloud where the democratisation of data and analytics infrastructure continues apace. The increased availability of sophisticated AI and ML capability to anyone with a cloud presence will mean that they cease to be the largely bespoke application that they currently are, as large cloud providers vie with each other to provide accessible services to all. In my field of sport, I think we will see the continued adoption of technology at all levels to continue to improve the fan, spectator and player experiences, which has the potential to transform the way that people participate in their favourite pastimes.

 

Talent and skills are always a challenge to find - how are you tackling this in your organisation?

 

We use a combination of home-grown talent, niche supplier expertise, graduate and post-graduate research placements, expert vendors with high quality talent and, this year, we will start to experiment with crowd-sourced talent.

 

What aspect of data, analytics or their use are you most optimistic about and why?

 

In my field, data and analytics are being brought to bear on some of the most fundamental aspects of our sport which will only serve to grow the game and get more people choosing to pick up a bat and ball: improving athlete performance and reducing injuries; strategies and tactics; equipment; formats of the game; new ways of attracting, engaging and retaining people in the sport of cricket; digitisation and automation of all of the mundane processes that delay or prevent people from playing; protecting players and making it the safest, most enjoyable pastime it can be.
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