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Using Data is like managing a football team

Have you ever fancied yourself as an Alex Ferguson? Does the Managing Director of a company use data to run their business in the same way as one of Ferguson’s teams?

The defence

How often would the defence include players who were prepared to put their bodies on the line to protect the goal? They would use all their experience and knowledge of the opposition players to stay one step ahead, keeping their formation solid, and being prepared for the unusual skill or trick.

But they didn’t just rely on themselves – the coaching staff and manager would have shared relevant information on the opposition ahead of the game. As the game unfolds, they would have input from the goalkeeper behind and the midfield in front, constantly feeding them up to date information, allowing them to make effective decisions. The greater the quality and up to date information they had, the higher the likelihood of them making better decisions and protecting the goal.

The midfield

Often there would be a mix of skills and experience, those with flair and vision who would link up with the forwards, and those who would support the defence. They would be capable of directing the team on the pitch to apply the game plan (the strategy) that the manager had formulated for this specific game. But they would also be flexible enough to react to events (data) as things unfolded on the pitch. A football game, like the business world, is dynamic, and the midfield have to stay alive to both new challenges and new opportunities.

The forwards

Often referred to as the glory boys – if they are scoring goals, the team is more likely to be successful and win games. Align this to a sales team in a business who are critical to the growth and health of a business. Whilst the forwards know how to score goals, it will often be the midfield that are directing them, identifying and providing the opportunities. Again there are similarities with business –by using data to provide your sales team with quality, qualified and specific opportunities, there success rate will improve and you are more likely to achieve your growth aspirations.

The manager (“the boss”)

And what about the manager himself? He has formulated the game plan by taking inputs from his coaching staff, observing his players during training, and watching videos of the opposition. Effectively he will have used a variety of data and information inputs to reach that plan, and his team will be successful if they can effectively execute on the pitch.

But similar to the midfield needing to be flexible, he doesn’t stop when the referee’s whistle goes at the start of the game. He will continue to assess events (data) as the game unfolds, and will adapt his original strategy and react quickly if the need arises.

Whilst I acknowledge that Ferguson was a top performing manager, in part this was only possible by having a great team around him and always using quality data and information to make effective decisions.

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