At Arsenal FC, Hywel Sloman's effectiveness as IT director was recognised in 2017 by his taking on the heavyweight executive role of operations director, with the formal appointment that marked his continuing success coming at the start of this year.
The big innovation in 2017 must be the Arsenal Innovation Lab to bring new ideas to the business and help solve key business challenges (such as reaching fans globally). Other benefits include bringing a startup culture to the organisation, experimenting with new technology, and conferring a sense of internal excitement and cross-functional working. Six startups were chosen for a 10-week stint in the lab to get them to a point where their products (focused on new technologies of immense interest to the club, such as AR, bots, social listening and AI) can deliver significantly.
Outside the lab, the team has delivered technology innovation to support the football side of the business. VR and AR are now established as coaching methods at Arsenal, and he has led a project to record every single training session taking place for all players, from under-8s to the first team; these are now used in real-time by coaches to replay moments to players on the side of the pitch and to give players an analysis of their training performance on their mobile devices. He is using data lakes to consolidate all the club's IoT data, allowing Arsenal's data scientists to predict performance based on the historic player data captured.
Beyond analytics, his team the e-commerce offering, with multi-channel gift cards that have pushed sales up by 14%. The growth in e-commerce has in turn triggered an investment in stock management, eliminating delays in product delivery to customers.
The club has also launched an app for all academy players, providing clear communication of schedules and training plans. In a competitive market for the recruitment and retention of young footballers, Sloman and the Gunners believe the app helps reinforce the message that Arsenal treats its people better than its competitors.