Data collaboration lessons from the greatest teams of all time

From Michael Jordan and the Bulls to Barcelona's tiki-taka style, data cooperation in marketing and teamplay in sports have more in common than you think.

Having strong players in the right position, introducing a powerful offensive line-up, an insightful coach…Ben Cicchetti - VP, Corporate Marketing at Infosum, asks what data collaboration lessons can be learned from some of the best sports teams of all time.

Today, customer-centric organizations are looking to drive more value from their first-party data, and data collaboration has emerged as a top strategic priority. Companies are adding data collaboration technology like data clean rooms to their marketing stack to make it happen. 

But technology only solves one dimension of the collaboration equation. Data collaboration is inevitably a team sport. You need to have the right players in the correct positions working towards the same goal. 

From an internal perspective, that means having the right people in place and empowering them to make quick decisions and create value from collaborative partnerships. From an external perspective, that means teaming up with the right partners to deliver on the full potential of data collaboration. 

As organizations across the globe invest in their data collaboration strategy, what lessons can be learned from some of the greatest sports teams of all time?

It's a team sport

The 1991-1998 Chicago Bulls are arguably one of the greatest basketball teams of all time. The centrepiece of that team was, of course, Michael Jordan. 

However, the Bulls were not a one-person show. MJ alone would not have been able to win three back-to-back NBA Championships — twice. He needed strong teammates like Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman. 

The team also needed outstanding leadership with a clear vision and strategy to achieve this feat. Head coach Phil Jackson used the triangle offence first developed by Tex Winter to amplify MJ's skills, to devastating effect. 

Similarly, companies looking to establish their data collaboration strategy need a team of strong players in the right roles. These roles include:

  • The data team: responsible for determining what your data assets are, how to work with them, and managing the data process during collaboration

  • The legal and compliance team: to set boundaries, develop healthy data governance, and ensure that any solution that touches the data complies with prevailing regulations

  • The commercial team: to work directly with collaboration partners, and pitch new offers based on combined data assets

  • The coach: to provide leadership support and represent the interests of the data partnership at the executive table

A great offence is nothing without a solid defence

From 2012 to 2015, offensive lineups across the NFL fell victim to the Seattle Seahawks' Legion of Boom - led largely by Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Kam Chancellor. During those four banner seasons, the hard-hitting, fast-paced Seahawks defensive lineup led the NFL in scoring defence.

Their success cannot be overstated. The Legion of Boom led the Seahawks to six consecutive winning seasons, three division titles, two NFC championships, back-to-back Super Bowl appearances, and their spectacular Super Bowl XLVIII victory over the Denver Broncos.

The lesson for data collaboration teams is that the ability to deliver fantastic data-driven customer experiences is only as great as their ability to protect the data. Organizations must invest in privacy-enhancing technologies that prioritize data security and customers' privacy every time they collaborate - including how they retain possession of their data at all times.

Speed is of the essence

In most sports, speed is a competitive advantage. Perhaps no team exemplified this more than the 2008 to 2012 Barcelona FC team, who, under the leadership of Pep Guardiola, captured 14 trophies, including the 2009 and 2011 UEFA Champions League. 

One of the keys to Barcelona FC's success was a rapid passing technique known as tiki-taka. The key is to keep the ball moving at all times, creating space and bursts of speed to expose weaknesses in the defence.

The formidable Barcelona pairing of Andres Iniesta and Xavi epitomized this philosophy. Their deep understanding of how each other played and how quickly they moved the ball was one of the reasons Barcelona was so ruthless in creating opportunities and scoring goals.

For companies wishing to deliver customer experiences that are relevant, timely, and impactful, they must be able to collaborate instantly and without inefficiencies. Data clean room technology can provide that speed. When data sharing is removed from the data collaboration equation, legal, compliance, and infosec processes are cut down considerably. Furthermore, where solutions can deliver instantaneous matching, collaborations can be created on the fly, ensuring marketers can capitalize on point-in-time events. 

Bring multiple parties to the field

Data has played a crucial role for sports teams for quite some time. But no story highlighted this more clearly than the 2002 Oakland A's. As highlighted in the movie Moneyball, Billy Beane assembled a team of undervalued talent using a sophisticated approach to scouting and analyzing player data from multiple parties. The result? The A's racked up an impressive 20-game winning streak between August 13th and September 4th and ended up clinching the American League West division championship that year. 

However, perhaps the most prominent illustration of this approach came in 2004 when the Boston Red Sox emulated the multi-party data model pioneered by the A's to win their first World Series in 86 years. 

This story demonstrates the power of data and shows that bringing together data from multiple parties can lead to significant breakthroughs. Most data collaborations today are still limited to two parties. Companies must expand their horizons and consider the benefits of partnering with multiple data-rich companies inside and outside their industry to deliver more powerful and relevant customer experiences.

Create your collaboration playbook

No matter the end goal, companies must go in with a clear data collaboration game plan to make the most of their first-party data strategy. 

Put the right people in the right positions. Empower them with technology to act quickly and capitalize on immediate opportunities, knowing that the security of the organization's data and the privacy of its customers are fully protected. And give them the mandate to look for new partners beyond the immediate horizon.

Now sit back, and watch them score one for the home team.

By Ben Cicchetti 

VP, Corporate Marketing