From Baseball to Boardrooms, Building a Data-Driven Strategy is a Team’s Biggest Advantage
Organizations that set their strategies using data-driven metrics and processes can realize immense competitive advantages.
The most important and influential account of the sports analytics movement is undoubtedly Michael Lewis’ 2003 book, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game.
Moneyball tells the true-life story of Billy Beane, a former blue chip baseball prospect turned Major League Baseball executive. After his playing career ends, Beane transitions to front office management – eventually working his way up the ranks to become General Manager of the perennially struggling Oakland A’s.
In his role, Beane determines that the A’s pattern of failure can largely be attributed to the club’s unquestioning adherence to traditional roster-building and talent-scouting orthodoxies. Beane views conventional baseball management as outdated and unfavorable to small market teams.
Because small market clubs like the A’s are often unable to afford superstar-caliber players, they’re almost always at a disadvantage to teams with larger budgets. Adding to this handicap, small market teams are constantly at risk of losing their homegrown talent to better financed clubs. Despite these unfavorable conditions, the A’s built their teams by pursuing a handful of in-demand players that are widely coveted.
To level the playing field, Beane embraces statistical analysis strategy. Relying on carefully calibrated data points, Beane and his staff determine that player value has become disproportionately tied to a handful of well-known metrics (like batting average and the ability to hit home runs).
He instead pursues non-star players that are able to accrue metrics that his data indicates as winning qualities in the aggregate - most notably a high on-base percentage. While not flashy, Beane’s analysis shows that these kinds of contributions equate to more wins over the course of the season.
Bean’s trust in objective data to guide team strategy paid off: the A’s became a highly successful team over the next several seasons, making five playoff appearances and capturing four division titles.
I first read Moneyball while studying accounting and economics at Baylor University.
Lewis’ seminal book had an immediate and lasting impact on how I think about business strategy and decision-making.
I found Beane’s steadfast trust in objective data over the pressures of industry-operating expectations as both farsighted and brave. While Beane and the Oakland A’s were certainly not the first organization outside of finance to embrace analytics-based strategies, Moneyball signaled a watershed moment where organizations everywhere began to realize the success potential of strategy guided by data-driven methodologies.
After graduation, I entered the technology startup sector. Even from my limited perspective as an entry-level employee, my trust in data-backed insights as an engine for effective decision-making began to be validated. I saw how teams that established their goals based on sensible and well-researched data were able to accomplish their objectives faster and more effectively than teams that didn’t.
As I progressed into leadership roles, I continued to gain real world experience to how teams that were equipped with smart and actionable data could punch above their weight to challenge slower-moving competitors. I realized that when used correctly, data insights are both an accelerant and an equalizer.
After several years working in high-growth tech, I was ready for my next professional chapter. I knew my next role would be to help other organizations establish data-driven capabilities and cultures of their own.
In my role as VP of Business Intelligence at Adept Dynamics, I help my clients identify, accrue, and visualize data to drive their organizations’ growth and success.
I work alongside technologists and strategists to bring cutting-edge data capabilities to teams around the world.
One of the most important takeaways from Moneyball is that Billy Beane was not a data science expert. Despite this, Beane understood that once an organization had established the appropriate metrics and created a data-backed decision-making apparatus, a leader’s role is to assess the insights available to them and make rationale, strategic decisions.
At Adept Dynamics, one of our team’s driving principles is that cutting-edge data tools should be available to business leaders at all levels of the data-fluency spectrum: novices to experts. We work closely with our clients to designs process that allow transformative data insights to be easily interpreted and actioned.
Using cutting-edge tools from Microsoft’s Business Applications software suite, like Power BI, we help our clients develop and implement a wide range of transformative business intelligence capabilities.
Despite the clear importance of companies establishing data-driven strategies, significant challenges still remain.
In the most recent NewVantage Partners survey, an annual report that tracks the progress of corporate data initiatives, just 26.5% of organizations report having established a true data-driven operational strategy.
The report also found that 91.9% of surveyed executives believe cultural obstacles are the single greatest barrier to teams becoming data driven.
What’s evident, is that establishing a data-driven culture is often inhibited most by people, rather than technology limitations or investment costs.
From what I’ve experienced in my career, I believe that using data to dictate strategy is one of the most important capabilities for achieving business success. Data-backed insights offer immediate benefits to every kind of organization and team.
Just like the Oakland A’s entrusting statistical analysis strategy as their guiding methodology for winning baseball games, business leaders today are facing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to realize transformative business breakthroughs through the gathering and utilization of data.
It’s critical that leaders everywhere meet this moment head on and adequately prepare their teams for a future where data-backed decision making will be the expectation, rather than the exception.
For teams that are unsure how or where to begin, Adept Dynamics’s team of business intelligence experts can help design and implement data capabilities that meet any business objective.
For more information on how Adept Dynamics can help your team become a data-driven organization, please contact us.