About the Royal Belgian Football Association
The Royal Belgian Football Association (RBFA) is the governing body and official representative of football in Belgium. It was a founding member of FIFA in 1904 and UEFA in 1954 and is based in Brussels, Belgium. Its mission is the administrative and sporting organisation of Belgian football.
The RBFA’s activities are divided into two areas: professional football, where professional clubs have joined together under a representative association called Pro League, and amateur football, consisting of two regional federations: ACFF (Association des Clubs Francophones de Football) and Voetbal Vlaanderen.
Initially, back in 2017 when the RBFA first talked to partner Devoteam G Cloud, there were several pain points in their data strategy that they wanted to address: the website was not personalised, there was no way of giving back to partners and their data wasn’t smart.
The RBFA’s data was located in silos. The biggest part of it was hosted on an on-premises Oracle server and the rest of the data coming from their digital channels like their website(s), mobile app, newsletters, eCommerce, and marketing tools were stored in separate environments.
The IT Teams were receiving too many ad-hoc requests for data and insights, from different teams in the organisation, such as the marketing or commercial teams. However, they were not able to provide adequate insights due to the lack of a proper data & analytics strategy and data warehouse.
That’s why the RBFA was looking for a way to get an overview of their stakeholders (Belgian Football Clubs, players, parents, fans, club staff & third party partners,…). They were looking for a solution to be able to provide insights and analytics out of their data to their different teams internally.
The end goal of the RBFA was to get a better understanding of their players, members, fans, and everyone that interacted in some way with their organisation in order to serve them better.
By mapping all user behaviour in a data lake, the RBFA would benefit from a 360 view of its users and get to work with it to make the content more personalised. The aim was clear: a football first and innovative association where every stakeholder feels he gets a personalised experience with the RBFA.
Overall the RBFA wanted to become a data-driven organisation and asked partner Devoteam G Cloud to help them.
In order to support this goal, Devoteam G Cloud proposed a strategy based on 4 steps:
- Define the vision
- Implement a Data Lake
- Gather insights
- Develop Smart Services
1. Define the vision
This was the first and essential step to start this project which allowed Devoteam G Cloud to better understand the different customer journeys, the needs of both internal and external stakeholders, and the quick wins.
2. Implement the Data Lake
In order to form a Data Lake we needed to gather the RBFA’s data which was located in silos. The Devoteam G Cloud’s team started ingesting data from the different sources (Match ticketing, email marketing tool, support tickets, Oracle database, Google Analytics,..).
Those ingestions arrived in the Landing Zone (where data is found in its raw form). It then aggregates and arrives in the Data Warehouse to serve analytics purposes.
Finally, the data is transformed to go in the Data Marts where it can be used for dashboarding purposes. While working on this, we created some automatic quality checks which helped the RBFA to understand the quality issues they were facing and take action to improve the quality of their data at the source.
3. Gather insights
Now that we had this structure, it was time to expose this data to the business so that they could make use of it and impact the way they interact with their stakeholders.
The Devoteam G Cloud’s team started to work on some dashboards together with RBFA to answer the need for analytics. This way, the business didn’t need to go to IT anymore to ask for reports but could see up-to-date information when needed.
The creation of these basic dashboards was directly followed with the creation of a 360° view of every stakeholder. The 360° view helps the business understand the result of all the ingestions and the benefits of the Data Lake. The business is able to search for specific stakeholders and understand how they interact with the RBFA through the different possible endpoints.
However, the 360° view alone could not help with personalised interactions with several users at the same time. Therefore, we used the basis of the 360° view to build a segmentation tool. Thanks to this segmentation tool, the business is now able to send targeted and personalised mail campaigns which they were not able to do before the creation of the Data Lake.
4. Develop Smart Services
The segmentation tool was the first step to show a direct impact of the Data Lake on the communications towards the different stakeholders of the RBFA. We then decided to automate this by connecting this segmentation tool to a new Omnichannel tool acquired by the RBFA.
This allows us to:
- Send automated emails based on the data from the Data Lake
- Send personalised push notifications
- Add some dynamic content on the website and mobile app to show a personalised experience
Devoteam G Cloud also collaborated with the RBFA to rebuild their mobile application. Now the mobile application is served by the Data Lake. The user receives in real-time data on its app and personalised content when asked.
Finally, Devoteam G Cloud is now working on integrating a recommender engine to start making some recommendations inside the app in order to increase the personalised experience and the time spent inside the app.
Special note: All the decisions regarding security were taken with the supervision of the RBFA’s Data Protection Officer (DPO) as well as the ICT team of the RBFA. Partner Devoteam G Cloud enabled the GCP security Command Center to make sure the RBFA always has an overview of critical issues identified by the Command Center.
The Technology used
The first step to take was to review the IT infrastructure of the RBFA and migrate their data to Google Cloud. The entire infrastructure is now managed by Infrastructure-as-code (with a.o. Terraform). All the services/data pipelines are deployed by our CI/CD solution and are fully managed, Google Cloud-native microservices.
Monitoring and logging analysis was set up, as well as organisational level cost analysis dashboards. Other Google Cloud technologies implemented are Cloud Run & App Engine, GCP API Portal & Cloud Composer.
It’s now possible for the RBFA to engage new types of analytics like big data and machine learning and to better manage this data complexity. The Marketing department uses the user’s data and analytics to create various audience segments and profiles which are later exposed to content tailored specifically for their profiles. This simple access to the data has made content personalisation a lot more effective which brings also more value to the commercial partners. From now on commercial partners can reach specific stakeholders which are more interested in their product.
The IT team was able to win back 10% of it’s time that was usually spent on creating reports for the business. Marketing is becoming more independent from the IT department because they have direct access to the data.
By bringing all the data together, launching the brand-new RBFA app & working on some very targeted personalisation, the RBFA is now better able to understand and respond to their customer needs — and that leads to growth.