Bill Belichick Installed an Event-Driven Architecture, so Should You
Event-Driven Applications

(This article was originally published on Propelics’ blog. To view Glenn Gruber’s VANTIQ TV interview where he expresses his own thoughts on today’s digital transformation, click here!)

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Widely regarded as the greatest football coach of all time (much to the chagrin of NFL fans outside of New England), Bill Belichick has ‘enjoyed’ six Super Bowls as coach of the Pats (plus two more as Defensive Coordinator for the Giants) and led the Pats to three-fourths of AFC Championship games (including a record-setting 8 consecutive trips).

But what’s really made Belichick great is his belief that you shouldn’t just “run what we run,” but that you should game-plan specifically for each opponent. This means the strategies and actions they employ are based on what they expect each specific opponent to do. And if things aren’t working as planned, they switch it up and adapt (Belichick is the master of in-game adjustments). Here’s a few examples:

  • On offense, the Pats use motion to get the defense to tell them what they’re doing. Brady might motion running back James White out wide. If the linebacker travels with White, it signals to Brady that the defense is in man coverage. Brady will then either run the play he called in the huddle or a new play that takes advantage of the defense.
  • On defense, it’s not about playing a single scheme like a 3-4 or 4-3. It’s about being multiple, adaptable. Against the Chiefs this weekend, the Patriots will probably play in sub-defense (5 or 6 defensive backs) for almost the whole game. But this kind of strategy requires players with positional flexibility and an understanding of how their roles change according to the defense called, and the opposition personnel and formations.

Modern football is moving in this direction. The RPOs (run-pass-options) that Doug Pederson and the Eagles made famous last year in their Super Bowl run were all based on the quarterback reacting to what they were seeing from the defense and deciding whether to hand the ball off to the back, pass, or run the ball themselves.

But for all of this to work, everyone on the team needs to be able to recognize what the opposition is doing, react (a.k.a. sight adjustments), and execute their role.

In effect, Belichick and the Pats installed an agile, adaptable, Event-Driven Architecture for the NFL that has led to an unprecedented level of success over the past two decades.


Today’s customers have outsized expectations for how the world should react to their every want and need, based on what some call the “Amazon Effect”:

  • Amazon Prime 2-day delivery. We now expect free shipping. And not just free, if it doesn’t arrive in 2 days, we don’t want to buy from you.
  • We expect that virtually any question should be answered instantaneously.
  • If we want to go somewhere, we expect an Uber or Lyft to pick us up at a moment’s notice.
  • We want things fixed before we even know they’re broken. Case in point, Coca Cola has sensors installed in its Freestyle dispensers that detect an impending failure or low syrup. When triggered, the machine calls a technician so no one has to suffer from downtime, a huge pain point for movie theaters and fast food chains.

But are we well positioned to meet and exceed our customer’s expectations?

Now, we all have established business processes at our companies—ways that we’re supposed to do our jobs. Generally, they’re designed to follow a single course based on a predictable pattern. But this has no analog in the real world. Life is dynamic. Things happen, and then we need to react to them. These “things” are also known as events. And with sensors, IoT, the Cloud, CRM systems, and call centers we have a lot more real-time knowledge about the countless events that happen every day.

Let’s look at a couple of common occurrences:

  • A customer calls, needing a delivery right away.
  • A pressure valve sensor identifies equipment likely to fail in the next two days.
  • Sales increases its forecast for the month, meaning we need to increase manufacturing production 10%

All these scenarios should trigger us to do something different than we had planned.

  • We might need to send out a new expedited delivery or change the delivery method of an existing order.
  • We should dispatch a technician to replace the faulty valve in the next 24 hours.
  • We need to check our raw materials inventory to make sure we can increase factory output to meet sales (which could also require expediting raw materials and planning a second shift).

An Event-Driven Architecture allows us to react to changes in the environment around us (as shown in the examples above) and take corrective/proactive action. Oftentimes, the people we need to notify, or the data we need to solve the problem cross many departments, internal systems, and platforms. An Event-Driven Architecture (EDA) helps broker and orchestrate these activities and allows us to be the agile, adaptive organization customers demand.

How we get there isn’t simple, nor does it need to be immediate. But, we must get started today. Remember Bill’s motto: #NoDaysOff.

A lot of thought goes into crafting a strategy to implement an EDA–IoT elements, mobile elements, cloud/infrastructure elements. New and emerging technology around serverless, stream processing, event hubs, and robotic process automation (RPA) are growing in popularity to support EDA. The good news is you’re not the first to make the journey, and we can help. So, let’s go!

Now, I’m sure that while some of you are saying, “In Bill we trust. I’m all in!” others are thinking, “this sounds like a great idea, but I hate the Pats.” For the latter group, I understand that jealousy of the Pats’ success is hard to reconcile. And if you’re a Jets fan, it may be impossible. But really, you gotta let it go. If you want to set up your company for sustained success, and excellence that spans decades, follow Bill’s lead and adopt an Event-Driven Architecture approach…and then buy a hoodie.


— Glenn Gruber is a Senior Mobile Strategist at PropelicsCo-Founder of The Emerging Technology Council, and a conference Co-Chair of the nGage event series. Glenn made a recent appearance on VANTIQ TV where he discussed the implications of mobile strategies in business and everyday life. Gruber is also a leading voice on how mobile and other emerging technologies are impacting the enterprise and has been featured in publications such as Wired, CRN, eWeek, EnterpriseAppsToday, PhocusWire, and KMWorld. For more articles by Gruber, visit his author page.


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