FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME:

DISCOVERING DIAMONDS IN DATA FOR FINNISH CURLING ASSOCIATION

THE CHALLENGE

To participate in Finnish Curling Championships, all competitors must fulfill two eligibility criteria. They need to be a member of one of the Finnish curling clubs and additionally, they need to purchase a Competitor License. The competition managers are responsible for checking the eligibility of all players. Cross-checking this in two different systems was an extremely time-consuming and error-prone manual task.

THE SOLUTION

Sofigate built a modern data platform for Finnish Curling Association using Google Cloud Platform. This platform combines the data from Curling.fi and Suomisport.fi, providing the competition managers an easy way to cross-check both eligibility criteria from a single view in a matter of seconds.

THE OUTCOMES

The solution saves a massive amount of time and eliminates unnecessary manual work and errors. The data pipelines from Curling.fi to the data platform also allow the Finnish Curling Association to harness the data for other purposes. Finnish Curling Association has results data of about 20 000 games played in Finland since 2007, so there is enough data for advanced analytics and sophisticated use cases now that the foundations are in place.

The Finnish Curling Association manages all Finnish Championships in Curling.fi. This is where the teams register to the competitions and where all Finnish curling clubs keep their member registers. In addition, the competitors must purchase a Competitor License and an insurance at Suomisport.fi. Keeping track of the eligibility of all players was eating up too much resources.

“This was a big challenge for us: we did not have enough resources for cross-checking the eligibility for each player and competition in two different systems”, says Katja Kiiskinen, Director of Operations at the Finnish Curling Association.

“Sofigate’s Markus Sipilä came up with the brilliant idea to combine the data automatically from the two different systems in the same platform, instead of comparing it manually. This speeds up the process, reduces the risk of human errors and makes a huge difference for competition managers. The solution benefits us instantly during every tournament weekend of the season.”

Analytics help focus the development activities

In addition to the immediate gains, Finnish Curling Association can now use data analytics for other purposes.

“One of the first applications was to build dashboards and reports that illustrate how the number of players is developing over time and how the clubs compare to each other, for example on age or gender demographics. This helps the association to focus right kind of development efforts to the clubs”, explains Sipilä, Senior Advisor and Chief Technology Officer at Sofigate.

The Finnish Curling Association can also see all required data and statistics when they apply for funding from the Ministry of Education and Culture. Previously, collecting these key performance indicators was a big effort.

“We can now easily verify how these numbers are developing over time and in different age groups. This brings us clear benefit. The same goes for individual curling clubs: they can use this data when they apply for regional funding. And the association can use it to give reports to the clubs, inspiring and motivating them for developing their activities”, Kiiskinen explains.

Lotta Immonen and Markus Sipilä (picture by: Mika Ollikainen)

Public cloud scales to the needs of different sizes of organizations

One of the key characteristics of the Google Cloud Platform is that it scales to the needs of any size of an organization. “It’s amazing how the technology has evolved in the recent years. Finnish Curling Association is a very small non-profit organization but the cloud technologies scale to both directions. Finnish Curling Association is now running a world class data platform with the same technology stack that the biggest organizations in the world are using, and it’s extremely cost-efficient to do so”, explains Sipilä.

Sofigate supporting top performance

Markus Sipilä had a personal interest in this cooperation: he plays curling at competitive level, and just recently won the Finnish Championship in mixed doubles curling. At the end of April, Sipilä will represent Finland in the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship in Geneva together with his teammate Lotta Immonen.

It might sound complicated to combine a work career and a sports career, with high ambitions in both. At Sofigate, it has not been the case. ”I have worked at Sofigate for 13 years. Not once have I faced any trouble for the extra time off I need for the competitions”, Sipilä says. “I brought up my sports background in my job interview 13 years ago, and was surprised for the spontaneous, encouraging reaction from the person who interviewed me. At Sofigate, it is considered something positive that a person shows passion towards other things outside work, even if it requires special arrangements at work.”

Right now, as Sipilä is preparing for Geneva, he has been working slightly less than full time. This makes it easier for him to practice with his pair. “My teammate is a police officer working in shifts. I can organize my work so that we can practice during the daytime, when my teammate has a day off. The flexibility is also necessary for all the competitions in Finland, on World Curling Tour and in international championships: I have six competitions in Finland and abroad within eight weeks”, Sipilä points out.

Sipilä thinks that high performance in sports and at work have a lot in common. “For top performance in both of these, you need to have your whole life in balance. At Sofigate, this is possible – that is how our culture is built. One of our values is ‘care’, and it is really a lot more than just four letters.”

A win-win-situation

The Finnish Curling Association and Sofigate both strive to excel in their respective fields. This time, the result was a shared victory. Sofigate provided the solution as pro bono project, and it brought direct benefits for the association. At the same time, this was an excellent learning opportunity for Sofigate’s junior developers.

”It is heart-warming to know that everyone got benefits from this. This was a great idea from Markus, and solved a problem that was tying up a lot of our resources. Sofigate’s junior developers were in charge of building this solution, so it was also a good practice for them. Markus guided them in this project, and they showed great initiative in picking up the data that is useful for us. The cooperation was fluent all along the way, and it resulted in a smart solution”, Kiiskinen concludes.

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