Effective data strategy requiring a balance of offense and defense may seem strange at first, but an article by Leandro DalleMule and Thomas H. Davenport in Harvard Business Review last year presented a great way to examine how your business uses data for competitive advantage.
According to the authors, you have data defenders who try to keep the data protected and siloed to protect a “single source of truth,” while at the other end of the spectrum you have offensive-minded stakeholders trying to use data to generate customer insights or to inform management decisions.
In this view of data strategy, defensive activities are centered on minimizing risk and include activities like regulatory compliance, detecting fraud, preventing theft, and insuring the accuracy of the data. Meanwhile, the offensive activities are most often customer-focused and include data analysis and modeling to inform customer retention or acquisition strategies and support financial decisions.
Is Your Business Prepared to Play Offense and Defense?
All businesses exercise both types of strategies, but the focus tends to fall toward one or the other, depending on the type of business and managerial style. Neither strategy is inherently better than the other, but how they are balanced in the organization is extremely important. Unfortunately, the two strategies are often owned and executed without strong coordination.
To delve into a sports analogy, most business operate like a football team where offense and defense fight for resources to make their part of the team stronger and execute their strategy without much (if any) coordination with the other half of the team. What is needed in business is more of a basketball team approach.
At the most basic level, all members of a basketball team need to be part of the offense and the defense for the team to win. The head coach needs to understand both sides of the game well enough to receive guidance from the subject matter experts on the team to make important strategic decisions. Based on the team being played (or industry the business is in) the master strategy may be more defensive or more offensive in focus, but the entire team cooperates in the implementation.
Successfully Blending Defense and Offense
In basketball, the best teams blend their available talents in defense and offense in the most effective way to create a competitive advantage. Team owners bring in coaches and players to fill gaps in one or another of the strategies.
To create this in business requires the defensive talent (most often IT) and offensive talent (operations, marketing, and finance) to coordinate efforts to standardize and protect data (defense), while leveraging that data in multiple ways to support operational dashboards, CRMs, and financial forecasting (offense). For business leaders, the best way to support their team is to make sure they have the resources to build the strongest store of trusted business data and the systems to leverage it.
Plan Now and Keep Planning
The best teams are built with a specific strategic direction and outcome in mind and the management continually monitors performance to insure the right strategy, resources, and systems are being used and the desired outcome is delivered.
If your business would like help in evaluating its balance in data strategies contact Triple Helix. We can help you assess your current capabilities and develop plans for addressing gaps in capabilities and processes.