How IBM Consulting and the US Open evolve the fan experience and accelerate innovation

By | 3 minute read | August 17, 2022

Arthur Ashe Stadium during the US Open

Photo: Rhea Nall/USTA

IBM® has been the official technology partner of the US Open Tennis Championships for more than three decades, and the relationship goes much deeper than courtside logo placement. It’s an ongoing partnership delivering world-class digital experiences to fans, built on IBM’s open, flexible technology platform. “We need to constantly innovate to meet the modern demands of tennis fans, anticipating their needs, but also surprising them with new and unexpected experiences,” says Kirsten Corio, Chief Commercial Officer at the United States Tennis Association (USTA).

Year after year, IBM iX, the experience design arm of IBM Consulting™, works with the USTA to integrate technology from dozens of partners, automate key business processes and use the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to transform vast quantities of tennis data to deliver key insights.

Bringing fans closer to the game they love

This year’s tournament features colorful personalities and compelling stories. But as host of a leading spectator event viewed by nearly 10 million people every year, the USTA is charged with delivering ever more engaging experiences. IBM Consulting asked: How can we use the digital experience of the US Open to serve the USTA’s mission and grow the game of tennis? How can we better serve fans with live scores, stats and player information while they watch a live match? How can we deliver the answers they need? How can we provide relevant and timely insights they can’t find anywhere else?

These questions led to several innovations: The IBM Power Index with Watson ranks player momentum and combines performance and punditry, queried through IBM Watson® Discovery, to create a “Likelihood to Win” prediction and highlight compelling matchups. Match Insights with Watson delivers head-to-head pregame analysis of every match, using natural language generation to translate historical statistics into easily read sentences. And US Open Fantasy Tennis, enriched with Match Insights, lets fans create and follow their own fantasy team.

Learn how IBM delivers predictive insights in natural language for the USTA »

A collaboration that drives innovation

Creating digital experiences that drive enthusiasm requires a human lens. To achieve that, the US Open digital strategy team partners closely with IBM iX, one of the largest business design consultancies in the world. IBM iX uses collaborative design thinking brought to life by the IBM Garage methodology — an end-to-end model for accelerating digital transformation — to address challenges within a variety of management frameworks including lean startups, human-centered design, agile and DevOps.

Stage 1: Co-create

At the co-create stage, squads agree on the nature of the challenges, prioritize them and conceptualize solutions. For example, for the 2022 US Open, a top priority was providing more explainability to the “Likelihood to Win” prediction.

Stage 2: Co-execute

At the co-execute stage, development teams build minimum viable products or solutions, and test them. Using this process, IBM and USTA developed the “Win Factors” feature, which shows the top three variables affecting the prediction such as head-to-head record, winning record on this surface or Power Index rating.

Stage 3: Cooperate

The cooperate stage is not simply about operational maintenance. It’s about ongoing performance management, improvement and product development. The USTA and IBM Consulting cooperate virtually year-round to develop and refine the digital experience, starting with a debrief after the tournament asking questions such as Where did we succeed? What could be improved? How can we be more efficient and effective?

Beyond solving the problems at hand, co-creating with IBM Garage can be a transformative experience for organizations, helping them prioritize their development queue, iterate solutions and evaluate them in a cycle of ongoing improvement. Using this method, IBM and the GRAMMYs delivered artist insights for live coverage based on IBM Watson analysis of millions of articles. IBM and the Masters® built a digital platform to scale the capabilities of the Masters Digital team.

Over 30 years in, IBM and the US Open continue to overcome new challenges and engage fans with new experiences. For a tournament, fan expectations and technology that are always evolving, this partnership keeps the USTA ahead of the ball.