There’s a cliché in sports: Offense wins games, defense wins championships.
When I talk to CDOs about their approach to Big Data, I hear that while the big revenue generating and cost saving opportunities continue to weigh heavily on their mind, they’re often too busy with defensive maneuvering to take the big, bold steps that can lead to the big payoffs Big Data has been promising us for years.
In terms of priorities and the required order of things, CDOs are certainly not wrong in focusing first on governance, compliance and assessment of risk. I’ve been blogging about the need for organizations to get their data house in order for months. With the volume, velocity and variety of data growing exponentially, sitting idly on that data pile won’t make rummaging through it any easier when you eventually do get around to it. And getting around to it is definitely something CDOs need to be doing now.
But, that can’t be the CDOs only role. If an organization is only looking at how not to get hurt, well, they’re going to get hurt. Good pitching may beat good hitting, but you also need to score a few runs. If you aren’t using your data to deliver new revenue-generating information-based products and services, you can bet that your competitors are or soon will be. Your defensive strategy may keep your organization safe for the time being, but their offensive strategies could, in the end, leave you with little to defend. Besides, if we’re only spending time, money and resources to protect ourselves from making mistakes with data, then why bother collecting the data to begin with? If all we do is store data, then all we can do is invite trouble. It’s all lemons and no sugar.
If you forgot what the point of Big Data is for most if not all you reading this, let me remind you: it’s to help your business MAKE MORE MONEY—through better intelligence, better decision-making, better products, better service… better everything. An offensive data strategy is about putting new ideas and initiatives in motion. It’s about enabling the positive. A defensive-only data strategy isn’t about moving forward. It’s simply about preventing bad things from happening. It’s about preventing anything from happening.
So, how can defense-minded CDOs push their organizations forward with a dual defense-with-offense strategy?
- Well-known data expert Tom Davenport suggests splitting your teams into offense and defense. The same people who focus on fraud prevention “are not those who should work closely with marketing to target promotions,” he’s written. The CDO should assign specialties based on skills but also on whether they tend to “think” more defensively or offensively.
- The work you do to better document and catalog your data for compliance can also be leveraged to make data easier to find by those who need it for data analytics. After all, if over 50% of time for an analytics project is spent looking for data, then reducing the time spent looking through better documentation will result in making your data analytics environment more agile. In this case, better defense leads to better offense.
- Another example of better defense leading to better offense is the rapid processing of new data through “quarantine”. Companies with regulatory requirements can’t let just anyone access the data. To deal with this, some organizations simply restrict data access to a very small number of users. Data governance gets in the way of using data to create new products and services. But imagine if you could quickly clear data through quarantine and give access to more data to more users in a secure manner? Then your ability to do agile data governance would lead to more agile data analytics as well.
Remember, it’s important to catch every ball that comes your way. But if you want to win, you need to start putting the ball in play, too.