Setting Policy: The Moneyball Approach


Information governance programs are about increasing the business value of data. In order to ensure the right investments are being made in the right place, information governance initiatives must be tied to the overall strategy and policies of the organization. For this reason, the proper setting of policies around data and its usage within your organization is a full half of what it takes to make information governance programs and software successful, valuable and effective.

In 2003, Michael Lewis published the book Moneyball: The Art of Winning in an Unfair Game that tells the story of the Oakland Athletics baseball team and how Billy Beane, the manager of the team, used a data-driven approach to build a competitive team despite a huge disadvantage in the team’s salary versus those of other teams in baseball. If you are not familiar with the Moneyball story, Mr. Beane decided that he would ditch the conventional method of drafting and trading players based on traditional data points like stolen bases, runs batted in and batting average, and rather rely on more advanced and telling metrics such as on-base percentage and slugging percentage. By using this new view of data and interpretation of what data mattered, he was able to put together a successful team for a fraction of the cost of the upper echelon salaries in baseball.

If we dive into Mr. Beane’s accomplishments in Oakland, I would argue that although the words “information governance” were probably never spoken, it is the information governance policies put in place that were key factors in his success, not only in building a team, but also disrupting a market. By setting polices into what data points mattered and putting effort into making sure those data points were correct, accurate and timely, the organization was able to act with confidence in their decisions. Perhaps just as important, the people involved were not spending time focusing on data with lower business value.  

Ensuring The Value of Your Data is Maximized 

Drawing a straight line between the decisions made in the management, usage and flow of your data and overall organizational goals, ensures the value of that data is maximized. The connective tissue that keeps the decisions in line with the goals are the data policies that guide and shape the decisions. These policies can be high level guidelines such as: 

  • Users should only have access to the data to which they are authorized.
  • All accounts receivable must be collected from a customer before that customer is removed from any and all systems.

Or can be very specific such as specific clauses from government regulations or application interface definitions. When a person or machine in an organization is making a choice on what to do with data, these policies act as the guide posts that frame that decision. 

The policies that are set and where they are set both contribute to the effectiveness of those policies and the weight they carry throughout the organization. Setting policies that can be directly tied to the KPIs and the strategic initiatives set by senior management helps to drive buy-in across departments and teams. Speaking a common language and being able to tie policies back to agreed-upon goals and KPIs gives a common point of agreement that can be helpful in building a larger common consensus.  

As this collaboration occurs, both online and off, capturing and maintaining these decisions in a single place that serves as the single source of truth for these policies ensures that this common language extends down from the high level KPIs through the policies to all areas of your organization.

“People in both fields operate with beliefs and biases. To the extent you can eliminate both and replace them with data, you gain a clear advantage.”

― Michael Lewis, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

Want to learn more about setting policies for your information governance initiatives? Join us at SAPPHIRE NOW on May 17th – 19th and come celebrate our 20 Years of Data Excellence. 

About the Author

Tyler Warden

As SVP, Product and Engineering Tyler is responsible for the product strategy, roadmap, design and delivery of Syniti's software applications and platform. He has the privilege to lead the organization responsible for innovating, building and delivering a world class, SaaS enterprise data platform that delivers trusted and understood data to the enterprise. Acting as the deputy to the EVP and Head of Product, Tyler is a member of both the Strategic and Product leadership teams and is instrumental in the development and driving of the product strategy and vision from ideation through to execution. In his time at Syniti, Tyler has worked in all areas of R&D as well as at customer sites giving him a unique perspective on the needs of the Information Governance market and the current and future needs of customers. A leading voice in the data management industry, Tyler is a common contributor to industry publications as well as a speaker at conferences around the world.

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