The USA Olympic Cycling team’s digital transformation

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Let’s look at the USA Cycling team’s digital transformation—from fifth place in world competition to winning gold in the 2016 World Championship and silver in the 2016 Olympics in just 11 months.

For the cycling team their journey to digital was one of: learning, experimentation, adaption, and scale. Let’s look at each of these steps through the lens of an actual customer’s journey.

digital tranformation journey

The digital transformation challenge: All that data

Data came from multiple sources and in diverse formats (e.g., stopwatches, video analysis, cycle power meters, historical data, physiological data). The coach manually compiled data into spreadsheets and shared it with the team after the race or training trial. Preparing insights took four hours per session of the coach’s time. The results were meaningless to the team as the data were not tied to performance, immediate or actionable, such as telling them, “Go faster!”

Step 1: Learn

First things first: Know your users and collect as many different types of data as possible from the experimentation phase. Combine the data with analytics, sentiment analysis, usage of your applications, and how people interact to find points of discovery in the results. This phase is about trying and analyzing.

What did USA Cycling do?

IBM worked with USA Cycling using an agile development process, including a design thinking approach. In sprint zero, the IBM team interviewed stakeholders, gathered data from the diverse sources, and researched the cycling industry.

Step 2: Experiment

Rapidly experiment with new ideas using a platform designed for experimentation and innovation.

What did USA Cycling do?

The IBM jStart team designed a comprehensive dashboard, pulling together all data sources that were elements of an IoT solution. This design used a previously developed reference architecture containing Bluemix, Watson, NodejS, and Cloudant. Reusing with revisions of the reference architecture provided a significant head start. Watson provided the cognitive capabilities to provide real-time insights.

The solution was developed in two-week sprints. The design evolved as more stakeholders used the solution. For example, the physiologist realized that the data could influence her work and asked for some changes to the design.

Step 3: Adapt

Take the results from Step 2, adapt using the feedback, make changes, and quickly iterate.

What did USA Cycling do?

Training sessions acted as a lab to iterate and validate the solution. For example, they added machine learning with Spark technologies as the design evolved. On the USA Cycling side, their milestones for trials and events provided real milestones for the development efforts. The USA Cycling team realized its goals, winning the World Championship and setting a world record with a silver medal at the Olympics.

Step 4: Scale

Make applications and solutions highly available to meet demand and scale.

What did USA Cycling do?

The combination of very portable mobile application technology and leveraging cloud analytic technology allowed the coaches and athletes to receive real-time insights in any velodrome all over the world. This was proven when five mobile phones and one iPad were carried to Rio and provided real-time insights during their training. This allowed them to make last-minute adjustments in their strategy in the new Rio racing environment.

The IBM jStart team continues work post-Olympics with USA Cycling to introduce additional capabilities and further refine its solutions.

Ready to start your journey and win your equivalent of “gold medals”? Head over to the Bluemix home page to learn how to get started. Whether you’re working with the Bluemix Garage or experimenting yourself, Bluemix is the platform for your digital journey. Hear more about USA Cycling’s own journey on YouTube.

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