Building a data-first enterprise: lessons from the Lions

Building the Tour app was a great exercise in doing digital. But, how did the British & Irish Lions go about making sure that they were being digital as well?


What does it mean to be a data-driven business? Does it mean building a sprawling portfolio of digital platforms, investing in online marketing campaigns and setting up customer service chatbots? Or does it entail a deeper transformation of core operations? It shouldn’t be surprising that it’s the latter.

Doing vs. being

No major business in the world is, in 2017, taking digital lightly. It’s as necessary to making money and serving customers, today, as electricity was to businesses a 100 years ago. But, not all businesses approach digital the same way. EY works heavily with companies looking to digitize their operations, and that means a lot more than buying up digital advertising and hiring a search engine optimization (SEO) manager. 

The next question is: how did the British & Irish Lions embrace these features of digital thinking?

Building and designing the app

The first step in building the app was taking the audience personas already developed by the Lions and EY, and using them to construct a range of customer journeys, i.e., what they as customers wanted out of the app. This meant building things, such as the fixture list and a daily news section. 

During the development process, customer journeys through the app were tracked digitally, using data analytics tools, to identify the pain points. This involved tracking onscreen behavior, such as seeing where users were clicking and how long they were staying on particular pages. Doing this helped the developers understand what the app was doing right and wrong, and how best the experience could be improved. 

And this digital-first solution paid off. The Lions ran an app four years ago, during the 2013 Tour to Australia. Then, average time spent using the app in a single session was around 1 minute and 40 seconds. Now, average use times on the new app are over five minutes, an increase of more than 200%. 

The control center

Being digital meant more than just using leading-edge tools during the development stage. It also meant carrying through this mindset after the development process. By listening to customer feedback over online channels as the app went live, the development team was able to quickly identify errors in early versions of the app and get them fixed immediately. In one case, an error within the fixture listings was identified and fixed within 24 hours of the complaint being raised.

And this will continue into the app’s life cycle. The Lions app team operates a command center, which uses leading-edge analytics technology and data scientists to help identify and address any emerging issues either with the app or the customer experience.

Throughout the process, the Lions used and will continue to use data to understand what their customers need every moment, and will continually work to position themselves in order to best satisfy those needs. Building the app was doing digital. Understanding the app as it relates to an ongoing customer experience is what being digital is all about.

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