Moneyball – the Oakland As use of data and metrics to ID undervalued players — was one of the major catalysts for the current rage around big data and data analytics.
The Houston Astro’s were one of the teams to adopt the Moneyball philosophy in a big way.
This week, the NY Times broke the story that the St. Louis Cardinals had hacked into Astro’s proprietary database.
In fact, this hack seemed to get more media time than the Chinese jacking the personal info of all government employees.
Baseball competition aside, here’s why I think there’s a big teaching point in the story …
First, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that no database is totally secure.
Not the governments’ databases (think, personnel records, IRS data, ObamaCare info), not companies’ databases (think, Sony and Target) … and certainly not sports teams.
What that means is that predatory hackers can let somebody else do the heavy lifting and deep thinking … and then pounce to snatch the data, ideas and algorithms.
Sure … but, often undetected (until too late) and unpunished (e.g. how to prove the Chinese did it, and what punishment to dish out?).
And, there’s a broader business strategy question raised:
How long can a team or a company sustain a competitive advantage from big data and data analytics?
Organizations only have competitive advantage if the data and rules stay proprietary, i.e. confidential.
But, because of loose lips and personnel movements — from team to team, company to company –the rules become common knowledge pretty quickly.
It didn’t take long for all baseball teams to start tracking on-base-percentages, right?
It didn’t take long for all casinos to start giving players loyalty cards and tracking their slots plays.
The point: most ideas are easily copied … in essence, if not directly and literally.
Proprietary data provides an advantage … until it’s hacked.
Heads up !
Side note: Unlike most folks, I want Congress to investigate the Cards – Astros hack.
Not because I think it’s that big a deal, but because it would distract them from messing up other things.