Solve | Rackspace Technology with a graphic of a slider

Playing offense and defense with your data strategy

To succeed in 2023, chief data officers need a data “playbook” that focuses on prudent, secure data management strategies and best practices, while at the same time also engages analytics and transformational processes that drive growth.

Start 2023 right with a strategy that balances growth with moderation.

There’s truth in the old saying, “Offense sells tickets; defense wins championships.” Part of building a sound data strategy and a strong data-management function is the notion that your organization is going to rely on strategies that can be viewed as either growth-driven (the “offensive” approach) or risk-mitigating (“defensive”).

As a chief data officer, you want to maintain secure compliance via sound data strategy and execution touching all areas of the organization. But as you prepare for 2023, building an effective data strategy requires that you consider both offensive and defensive stances.


Reasons to adopt both an offensive and defensive mindset

An effective CDO must focus on prudent data management strategies and best practices. At the same time, they must also engage analytics to propel the digital and business transformational processes that drive growth.

In evaluating your own strategy, if your company (and industry) is highly regulated, and security is a dominant focus of IT activity, you’re likely to be much more on the defensive side with an emphasis on compliance and risk mitigation. This is common in the financial, insurance and healthcare spaces.

When you’re emphasizing data management and optimizing analytics and insights to increase your ability to compete in your market, your strategy is more offense-driven. Retail, travel and entertainment businesses will look to data for its analytics capabilities and the ability to help create a strategic advantage.  


Offense vs Defense Ben B


The two approaches differ primarily in how the organization deploys and stores data to the optimal strategic advantage. And there are numerous advantages to each:

DEFENSIVE: Mitigate and minimize risk

  • Address compliance and regulatory requirements
  • Prevent cyberattacks/data breaches
  • Ensure data quality through data governance
  • Employ analytics to detect and limit fraud

OFFENSIVE: Use analytics to generate revenue opportunities

  • Increase the value of company data
  • Apply sophisticated, real-time analytics
  • Respond quickly to markets and competitive activity
  • Generate return on investment in big data and analytics infrastructure


Fundamentals come first

Just as in a football team’s playbook, a successful offensive play is made possible only through good execution. Discipline comes first.

In creating data pipelines, for example, you can employ leading edge technologies like AI and machine learning. But if your execution is botched because of an inability to control your data or the assets capturing it, then you can’t confidently rely on your findings.


Which risk mitigation mechanisms are part of your organization?

  • Data security (encryption, confidentiality, reporting)
  • Data governance (discovery, catalog, quality, auditing, lineage)
  • Access controls (zero trust)
  • Compliance (GDPR, CCPA, HIPAA, SOX, SOC2 and others)
  • Privacy and digital policy management
  • Threat detection

You won’t advance without the fundamentals and the building blocks in place already. An effective playbook helps you use data and resources optimally. Overall, you can align data management activities to support both flexibility (offense) and control (defense). That’s important since companies will switch between offense and defense frequently.

Sometimes you're in security mode or risk-mitigation mode, and sometimes you're not. How a company's data needs and priorities shift depends on its overall situation, timing and strategy. No matter which industry a company operates in, it will shift constantly across the offensive/defensive spectrum.


Do you have true self-service analytics capabilities within your organization?

There is no bias throughout the system when there is discipline, governance and automation in your data strategy (the playbook). This is achieved when everyone knows what the data is; they understand the tools to pull information; and the process is reliable, repeatable and consistent globally, every time.

That’s when you succeed — and when your team wins.


Your goal: control and flexibility

A solid defense also accounts for your plans to standardize relevant data (e.g., customer, supplier or sales information). The goal is to create a single source of truth in which the data that’s captured by disparate systems within your organization is aggregated, stored and made accessible in a single, centralized location.

On the other hand, innovative offense boosts customer-focused business functions like sales and marketing, often in real-time. Whenever there is strong competition for customers, offense will tend to be the prevailing emphasis.

Here’s a worthy New Year’s resolution for all chief data officers to aspire to: Include both offensive and defensive moves in your 2023 playbook. And commit to build a stronger data strategy and data-management function that emphasizes growth and moderation, and control and flexibility.


Join the Conversation: Find Solve on Twitter and LinkedIn, or follow along via RSS.

Stay on top of what's next in technology

Learn about tech trends, innovations and how technologists are working today.

Person on laptop subscribing to the Solve Newsletter

Balance your offense and defense in 2023

About the Authors

A man smiling for a headshot

VP - Evangelist and Senior Architect

Ben Blanquera

Ben is VP-Evangelist and Senior Architect with Rackspace Technology. He works with enterprises, architecting solutions to enable them to drive business outcomes through thriving in a multicloud world.    He is a 35-year veteran in multiple industries including health care, manufacturing, and technology consulting. Prior to Rackspace, Ben was with Covail, a leading-edge provider of AI/ML and cybersecurity services to Fortune 1000 clients. At Covail, Ben was VP of Delivery and transitioned to VP of Revenue and Client Success.  A recognized technology leader, Ben was named a Premier 100 leader by Computerworld. Outside of work, he loves to travel, ride his bike, and spend time with his wife and four daughters. He is an active organizer in the tech community and curates the Central Ohio CIO forum (150+ CIOs) and founded Techlife Columbus. Ben also serves on the Pitch Advisory Board for South by Southwest and the Editorial Board for CDO Magazine.

Read more about Ben Blanquera