“People in both financial markets and baseball operate with beliefs and biases. To the extent you can eliminate both and replace them with data, you gain a clear advantage.” Michael Lewis, Moneyball

Knowing that a supply chain disruption can cause revenue leakage and market share loss, supply chain managers have tweaked every angle and measured every corner to speed delivery and improve production. As supply chains become more complex and pressures increase, supply chain managers need to ensure that they have the right information to compete. The customer perspective has come to the forefront as an important element that has been missing.

In the past managers sought to understand customers using focus groups and marketing studies, but social analytics has emerged as a new and powerful tool. Social analytics has begun to revolutionize the actionable information available to the decision makers charged with supply chain management. Major League Baseball (MLB) can provide insights for supply chain managers to learn about the impact of social analytics.

Every summer since 1933 MLB has held an All-Star Game where the National League and American League put their finest players on display for the ultimate exhibition game. The All-Star game has become a highly popular baseball event, second only to the World Series. What makes this game unique is that fans vote on who will play the starting positions for each league. The players and managers also get to vote on positions such as pitchers and backup players. Then there is one additional player who is voted in by fans after the list of 33 players for each league is announced. This is a true collaboration to select the best and most popular players and to create a great baseball exhibition for the fans to watch and enjoy – in some respects, it was an early form of social media.

Baseball fans love being part of the All-Star Game experience because their opinion matters on the players who take the field. Likewise, consumers want their opinions about products and services to be heard and to feel like they make an impact. While the desire to be heard is universal and long-standing, only recently has technology evolved to provide consumers with robust tools to do so. With the social media revolution now deeply rooted into our everyday lives and a staple of our culture, it is has become much easier to express opinions through e-mail, social networking sites, blogs, text, chat, and yes, even using a telephone to talk to someone.

In the last decade social analytics has risen to the forefront in the business of baseball, from planning a team and creating a roster to evaluating performance on the field and getting the most from the club payroll. In similar fashion the impact of analytics is being harnessed to improve supply chain management performance. Social feedback loops provide a huge advantage through understanding customers and how they perceive a company’s products or services. This combination of social, analytics, cloud computing and mobility has enabled unprecedented consumer influence, starting in consumer-centric industries like retail, but now permeating even business-to-business companies and sectors like heavy manufacturing.

For many years marketing and advertising groups have conducted polls to gauge consumer opinions, and over the last few years they have learned to incorporate social analytics as well. Marketers have taken real-time data and learned to measure advertising campaign effectiveness, understand customer information needs, and determine brand perception. This includes not only historical customer purchase data, but also purchase suggestions and predictions.