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In Business, Like In War, Data Is A Weapon

This is part of a series providing insights aimed at corporate strategists seeking competitive advantage through better and more accurate decision-making. The full series is available at our special section on Decision Intelligence.  Members are also invited to discuss this topic at the OODA Member Forum.

Broadly speaking, a weapon is anything that provides an advantage over an adversary. In this context, data is, and always has been, a weapon.

This post, part of our Intelligent Enterprise series, focuses on how to take more proactive action in use of data as a weapon.

Too many of us have been constant victims of data weapons in the hands of our enemies. Too few of us have examined how to wield data as a weapon to defend ourselves or to attack our adversaries.

Given the constant state of information warfare we find ourselves in it is time to revisit how we all use data. Defense of data remains critically important, but this is NOT sufficient to win. Your adversary defends, but adversaries also attack. Resigning yourself to just playing defense is foolish. If you don’t use data to your advantage you are destined for defeat.

Here are ways we advocate you wield your data weapons:

  1. Good defense of your data is foundational. Constantly move to improve your defenses to make it harder on your adversaries to penetrate and to enable optimal responses when they do surprise you. As mentioned above, defense alone makes you a loser, but without defense you lose quicker. Imagine making plans to wield your data as a weapon in an environment where you opponent can see your every move as you conceive it. Strong defense against spies, both cyber and human, is critical.
  2. Take stock of you data. Every business, government agency or other organization is different. So is every individual. So our data holdings are different and have different benefits as a weapon. To calculate how to wield your data weapon you will have to know what you have internally and what you can get externally.
  3. Seek out the right external data sources. In cyber war no one should go it alone. Your data weapon will be more powerful with data from partners. This includes data on your adversaries of course, but you also need data on your market, your partners and overall business environment.
  4. Optimize your data sources by use of the Strategic, Operational, Tactical framework. Strategic data supports long range decisions. Examples of strategic information includes the many analytical products at OODAloop but also information sources from industry associations, information sharing and analysis centers, and law enforcement sources. Operational data sources are those sources which can inform day to day decisions, including our daily report, but also other trusted media outlets, alerts from specialized dark web search services or other subscription based inputs. Operational data also includes information you purchase to aid your sales, marketing and other business functions. Tactical information sources include data feeds to inform your security teams.
  5. Optimize your data by enhanced analysis. No matter what your business, there are steps you can take to better weaponize your data by putting into place frameworks to ensure the right data is always available to you. Larger organizations need to design architectures where the right data gets to the right user in the right format at the right time. Most all need to establish mechanisms to move most, if not all, data into one enterprise data hub for continued research and analysis. Your ability to optimally analyze your data can give you significant strategic advantages over your opponent.
  6. Ensure your entire workforce is ready to support the decision-making information architecture you require to fully leverage data as a weapon. No matter who they are, people should realize they can improve the data and decision flow. No one should horde or secret away data. Everyone should proactively help get the right data to the right place.
  7. Build trust-based networks and proactively share key data to partners who can help you in the fight. This includes sharing with law enforcement and other government agencies. Law enforcement and the government can take the fight to adversaries in ways no others can, especially if your adversary is violating the law or is acting in ways contrary to the nation’s best interests.
  8. Build trust-based networks with reliable media partners. By providing accurate insights to media for further informing of the populace you can, at times, seize the initiative from adversaries.
  9. Ensure you are in control of your social media presence and can proactively share information you would like the public to know. Depending on your situation you may also need to have continuous monitoring of social media in place to enable rapid response when adversaries attack via that path.
  10. Build a data architecture that drives decisions at all levels of your organization and exercise decision-making in crisis situations via table top exercises and other drills. Your ability to think fast in crisis can help ensure you are leveraging you data appropriately.
  11. Understand everything you can do with data as a weapon. Some ways to wield your weapon include:
  • Driving internal decisions faster than adversary decision-cycles.
  • More rapidly assessing shifts in customer needs, buying patterns and other market shifts
  • Establishing informed marketing plans designed to win business based on data and increased market awareness
  • Ensuring marketing and media efforts are agile and responsive to fast turn, data-driven decisions
  • Optimizing hiring and other strategic resource decisions
  • Understanding adversary intentions including what they want to do in the market and using that understanding to optimize decisions
  • Optimizing cyber defenses to help reduce risk of adversary penetrations
  • Targeting specific adversaries for more intense information collection to help glean their intent
  • When appropriate, taking legal action in courts or, if there are indications of a crime, providing proactive action to appropriate law enforcement

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Bob Gourley

Bob Gourley

Bob Gourley is the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of OODA LLC, the technology research and advisory firm with a focus on artificial intelligence and cybersecurity which publishes Bob is the co-host of the popular podcast The OODAcast. Bob has been an advisor to dozens of successful high tech startups and has conducted enterprise cybersecurity assessments for businesses in multiple sectors of the economy. He was a career Naval Intelligence Officer and is the former CTO of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Find Bob on Defcon.Social