Changing the world, one hockey game at a timePosted: December 4, 2017
Mark-Anthony Ashfield, a partner at Deloitte, is living the dream. In October, Deloitte and the Saint John Sea Dogs partnered to launch “Discovery Zone”, a unique fan experience at Harbour Station. For the price of a game ticket, fans over 16 years of age can experience this exclusive and interactive space that provides an immersive fan experience using the latest and greatest technology. Hockey lover Mark-Anthony is totally in his realm.
Deloitte, a global company with over 250,000 employees, recently authored Age of Disruption: Are Canadian firms prepared?, a report about businesses being ready and prepared for change. The technologies showcased in the Discovery Zone will be part of this disruption and include robotics, internet of things – networks and sensors, artificial intelligence-cognitive, VR/AR- training/ experience and collaborative platforms.
Mark-Anthony admits the Discovery Zone looks like fun and games but it’s really about exposing people to these technologies – and the possibility of businesses and sports (including hockey) being changed by them.
My first question to Mark-Anthony was about his collaboration with the Sea Dogs and how that came about…
A: I’d been talking with the president and general manager of the Sea Dogs, Trevor Georgie, and he was looking to find new ways to engage with their fan base. He thought there must be a way for us to leverage technology.
We thought we could showcase some really high-end equipment and give the fans a new entertainment option when they come to the arena. For us, it could be a way to demonstrate some of the things that we’re doing now. We know people think of Deloitte as an accounting firm. We’re actually much, much more than that.
Q: So this partnership with the Sea Dogs is a win-win.
A: Yes. We’re really leveraging this technology to help our clients understand what is actually possible. One of things that we like to provide to our clients is a really immersive experience using technology and letting them explore with us just how it could change their business.
Q: What would be an example of this?
A: I used to be an auditor and one of the things we did was inventory counts. One of our clients was having trouble keeping track of records and inventory. We encouraged them look at some of the things that we were doing with drone technology and it turned into them using RFID tags and drones to fly in and around their warehouse, to constantly keep track of the inventory that was in place. It’s really about exposing people to technology that’s out there and then working with them to say,“How could this impact your business?”
Q: Is this a new direction for Deloitte?
A: It’s something that we’ve been doing for a while. I think we could be better about getting this message out. Fundamentally we see that business, including our own, is going to be completely disrupted by technology.
Q: What are you learning through your collaboration with the Sea Dogs?
A: Working with the Sea Dogs is an opportunity for us to bring this technology to the sport of hockey. There are three areas where we see that technology could be really impactful in hockey – fan experience, player performance and player safety.
Q: What is the connection between what you were doing and the hockey world?
A: We’ve been working in other fields, primary health care and the military where we use sensor technology to measure performance. We explore things where we believe that there’s an opportunity to bring some technology into the sport world that may not be there today.
Q: So why choose hockey?
A: I really love hockey and I come from a business background. I’ve always been intrigued by analytics – it brings a different perspective to an industry that’s been around forever. I think there’s an ability to leverage what’s out there from a technology standpoint to enhance what’s happening in hockey.
Q: Do you see the corporate world using this technology to support leaders in obtaining peak performance?
A: I do. You can easily see this application in a corporate setting.
Q: Do you think embracing technology this way will change the narrative around the way people think of Deloitte?
A: This specific opportunity has opened up the door for us to have a discussion exactly like you and I are having right now. We don’t view ourselves as an accounting firm anymore – we are a leadership development firm.
Q: Deloitte is a global firm – I hear the Discovery Zone is garnering some attention from head office?
A: Deloitte is the largest professional services firm in the world. Our firm is seeing what we’re doing in the sport of hockey and it’s really intriguing to them. This is the very first public Discovery Zone that we’ve had in our firm. I get e-mails all the time from across our firm, across all of North America – they are trying to figure out what we’re doing.
Q: It’s a great New Brunswick story.
A: It is. This is something where the Sea Dogs have stepped up to the plate, bringing a cool experience to their fans
Q: So, what’s the biggest learning for you on this collaboration?
A: There is so much out there and the pace of change is happening so rapidly. If you don’t get on board with this, you’re going to miss the boat – whether it’s robotics or machine learning, artificial intelligence or some form of augmented reality or virtual reality.
Q: It seems like it’s an excellent business development exercise as well?
A: I think so. It gets back to having very different discussions with clients. We didn’t do this to drive new businesses. We really, truly wanted to bring this technology to the city of Saint John and let people know what’s out there – so it might spark new ideas and get people thinking differently.
Q: It seems like New Brunswick is well positioned to do some incredibly innovative things within the tech sector, do you agree?
A: I think you’re right. We have some great companies in New Brunswick that are doing world-class things as well as research coming out of the University of New Brunswick. It’s absolutely mind-blowing to learn about some of the research that’s happening in the province around robotics, neurology, prosthetic limbs and more.
The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation is investing in companies that are leading edge and the Wallace McCain Institute is helping companies with new ideas grow and get into an ecosystem. There’s just such a great environment for doing this type of thing in the province.
Q: Do you see Deloitte being in a position to help support, maintain and build the ecosystem that exists in New Brunswick?
A: We’ve got a platform that’s global. We care about the productivity of Canada. We believe in the economy of Canada. We also want to see the New Brunswick economy be successful, to the extent where we can support companies that are trying to grow and do great things.
Q: How would you finish the following sentence,“A leader’s job is to……” ?
A: A leader’s job is to make other people successful.
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This article published in the Telegraph-Journal on Saturday, December 2nd, 2017.