Data is still defensible

May 13, 2009
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In Is Data a new defensibility? Abhishek Tiwari argues that even data is not defensible any more. He argues that data integration and the use of new sources of data are key skills but that companies cannot use unique data to differentiate because there is too much data and too much of it is available publicly.

He has a point, of course. Lots of data is available publicly and using it won’t necessarily give you much of a competitive advantage. What I think he misses is the value of data that you have about your customers and their behavior. You know, or at least could know, which of your customers bought what and when. You can track what they look at on your website and map that to your products and offerings. You can track who calls and what they call about. And you can use this data to segment them, make predictions about them and assess them. To a large extent, your competitors cannot do this. This gives you some critical, defensible, advantages:

  • You should be able to make retention offers that are more compelling than the acquisition offers your competitors make when


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In Is Data a new defensibility? Abhishek Tiwari argues that even data is not defensible any more. He argues that data integration and the use of new sources of data are key skills but that companies cannot use unique data to differentiate because there is too much data and too much of it is available publicly.

He has a point, of course. Lots of data is available publicly and using it won’t necessarily give you much of a competitive advantage. What I think he misses is the value of data that you have about your customers and their behavior. You know, or at least could know, which of your customers bought what and when. You can track what they look at on your website and map that to your products and offerings. You can track who calls and what they call about. And you can use this data to segment them, make predictions about them and assess them. To a large extent, your competitors cannot do this. This gives you some critical, defensible, advantages:

  • You should be able to make retention offers that are more compelling than the acquisition offers your competitors make when trying to steal away your customers
  • You should be able to target your customer acquisition efforts on those people who look the most like your existing customers – after all people like that chose you over your competitors before.
  • You should be able to enhance the publicly available data with your own data to form a picture that is richer and more actionable than someone working from the public data alone.

Of course all this only works if you have the ability to effectively and rapidly develop and use analytic models based on this data (to minimize decision latency) and, in particular, if you have a way to put these analytics to work in the production systems that interact with customers and prospects. Putting a decision management framework in place allows you to do both these things, turning your unique data into decisions that are, in fact, defensible.


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