I love thinking about my businesses and my employees as members of a sports team. There's something about the combination of fun, competition and teamwork that makes sports analogies so apt for business. As I was thinking about the role of data in an organization, it occurred to me that data can fill positions just like employees (and football players) do.
And that gave me an excuse to come up with another sports analogy. If your company were a football team, what positions could big data play?
Effective Data Collection (Your Offensive Line)
A lineman's job is to sweep up anyone and everyone in their way. Any players who slip through the line can cause big problems, and in order for the team to advance toward the goal line, the offensive line must clear a path.
Before big data can be used for any purpose, it must be collected. Think of data collection as your offensive line. You want to collect every single bit of relevant information, and you want to do it as efficiently as possible. You don't want anything to slip past you if you want to be able to fully explore the role of data in an organization.
Security (Your Linebacker)
Big, strong, indestructible… These are all critical attributes of a powerful linebacker. Linebackers stop incursions by the enemy. They simultaneously protect your territory while attempting to dismantle and disrupt the opposition's offense. Without a linebacker, your team is at the mercy of your competitors.
Security is a part of the role of data in an organization. Sure, you have to make sure the data you've collected is secure. You'll want to protect your company's data from theft or being accessed by people who aren't authorized.
But more than that, big data can actually function as defense. Risk analysis and mitigation can be more effective when they are based on big data.
Just as a linebacker keeps opponents from gaining ground, big data can help you identify and ward off potential business risk.
Precise, Effective Marketing (Your Kicker)
Brute strength and size can't accomplish everything in football. Sometimes you need precision, and that's exactly what your kicker is for. Touchdowns may get all the glory, but a game can be won entirely by field goals. While not as flashy as a QB, a kicker's accuracy is a critical component of success.
We all know marketing matters, and marketing analytics are a part of the role of data in an organization. The more you know about your customers, the better you can become at tailoring marketing efforts to appeal to them.
Collecting information about who your best customers are, how they shop and where they gather really shows off the powers of big data. Armed with a fuller sense of what matters to your customer, you can score big with laser-focused marketing.
Predictive Analytics (Your Quarterback)
The quarterback is the center of your offense, directing plays, making decisions and leading the team down the field. A QB has to see the entire field and make choices based on his perceptions and which options he thinks are more likely to succeed. A quarterback's role on a team is arguably the most complex, and it's also the showiest, getting all the glory.
Likewise, when it comes to the role of data in an organization, predictive analytics is among the most sophisticated. It relies on all the others for success, and I believe it has the biggest potential to improve your bottom line.
Predictive analytics uses data to forecast future customer behavior and identify trends, and therein lies the potential for a huge score. When you know what's likely to happen, you can prepare. You can make better decisions. You can lead your team down the field and get into scoring range.
Big data can be an asset to your business, one that has become increasingly easy to access, afford and use reliably. I encourage you not to limit your thinking about what big data can do for you. The role of data in an organization can be diverse and—when you assemble them all on the same field—can be quite awe-inspiring.
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