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Information Governance: Build Your IT Strategy like FC Barcelona

JoeGarber on ‎12-16-2013 07:05 AM

Last week, HP held its semi-annual customer event (HP Discover) in Barcelona.  More than 10,000 people attended, and key HP executives like Meg Whitman, George Kadifa of HP Software, and Robert Youngjohns of HP Autonomy each provided examples of how HP is transforming IT.


As luck would have it, one of the world’s top soccer (football) teams, FC Barcelona, was playing in town one evening at the 99,000 seat Camp Nou stadium.  I attended as part of an HP contingent and was treated to an outstanding performance by “Barça,” which ended in a 6-1 victory over a solid team that simply looked overmatched from the outset.  Watching such a high-caliber team while at an IT-related event got me thinking, is there anything we can learn from a soccer match that we can apply to IT strategy?  I believe so.



Optimize for nimbleness


The two teams playing this night really couldn’t have been more different.  One was a team that created occasional opportunities with its strength.  The other invented opportunities with its quickness, which allowed them to swiftly bypass challenges placed in front of them en route to easy scores.  One often sees similar characteristics in IT strategy development.  Some build systems that are rigid and complex, but powerful.  Other organizations look to develop an approach with enough flexibility to address future challenges.  Take away: choose nimbleness when you have the opportunity, by looking for modular IT solutions that can build on top of each other and deliver the right solution at all stages of your career without undue incremental work. 


Calculated creativity is king


The players who were obviously the most dynamic all had one thing in common – they were incredibly creative, but that creativity was born out of something deeper.  These players were constantly testing out hypotheses on defender tendencies, and then leveraged that insight to spring into action when the time was right.  To the casual fan, this may seem spontaneous, but to a watchful eye this creativity is much more calculated.  In IT, we need to provide end users with the right data, at the right time, in the right way, in order foster “calculated creativity” with our business colleagues.  Take away: look for technology solutions that can deliver greater strategic insight (e.g., big data analytics, knowledge management) to the executives who are in charge of determining overall business strategy.


Don’t get mesmerized by what’s right in front of you


The losing team’s defenders all night seemed to be laser focused on the ball at the opposing player’s foot, and were often quickly left behind with a sudden change of direction.  We in IT aren’t immune from this type of thinking ether.  Some organizations can be caught focusing just on the problem of the day (e.g., simply throwing more storage at escalating data volumes).  This solves the immediate need, but often places the organization at risk when it has to adapt to future challenges (e.g., making all that data available in an increasingly mobile business environment).  Take away: find an IT vendor that not only sells you technology, but that also has the domain expertise to help you think through all your needs, and not just those immediately in front of you. 


Build and leverage depth  


Barça played this week’s game without its – and arguably the world’s – top player, Lionel Messi.  This allowed other players to shine and provided a great opportunity to a budding star to have a breakout performance.  If they had built their team around just this one player, and not developed a strong supporting cast, the outcome may have been quite different.  In IT, one often sees an investment strategy that is akin to the “one star” strategy.   Often, we find organizations that buy market-leading software and then implement and administer it with junior staff, and place it on cheap hardware to save costs.  This often leads to sub-optimal results and can lead to unknown risk.  Take away: Look for a technology vendor that is strong on all fronts – hardware, software, and delivery – to achieve the best-possible results. 


Break to where the ball is going


The Barça players all night seemed to break to a passed ball before a teammate even looked in that direction.  This naturally gave the offensive player the upper hand in getting there first and often led to an easy goal.  The key to this, of course, is to know where the ball is going (and of course the precision to execute).  In IT, we too have to know where the ball is going in order to achieve success.  This means getting closer to end users in order to anticipate their long-term needs, whether that is directly through conversation or indirectly by analyzing trends and needs.  Take away: Find a software platform that can access and understand enterprise information and apply advanced analytics to facilitate this process and help you anticipate your organization’s IT needs of the future. 


I’m sure there are many more things we can learn from these talented athletes that we can apply to our day-to-day work, but these were my top-line observations.  I certainly welcome additional thoughts. 



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About the Author


Joe Garber is Vice President of Marketing for HPE’s Information Management and Governance business unit – a division of HPE Software. In this role, he leads thought leadership, product messaging and go-to-market efforts for the organization’s Adaptive Backup & Recovery, Information Archiving, Secure Content Management and eDiscovery businesses.

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