How many layers do you need?

I find a that the metaphor of a cornerback (CB) and the safety is valuable in a lot of professional discussions, as it makes the concepts of layers of defense or resilience a little more interesting to talk about. In football, the cornerback directly defends the wide receiver (WR), trying to keep him from catching the ball, while the safety acts as backup — in a perfect world for the defense, the safety would never need to do anything (I realize I’m dramatically oversimplifying football strategy).

I see this concept of layers of backup/resilience in the technology/engineering world:

  • Defense in Depth is a cyber security concept where you establish multiple layers of security for the bad guys to get past before they can do you harm (these days, we’ve moved to a cyber concept of Zero Trust Networking, where not only do we establish multiple layers of security for the bad guy, but we also no longer trust devices or people just because they have an employee’s login credentials, instead we continually look for anomalies — like continuous waves of safeties looking for a problem to tackle)
  • In technology backups, we talk about target measures like Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO) as a way to think through the resilience of our system availability, system recovery, data backup, etc.
  • In customer experience (CX), we think about various ways to identify things like customer needs, customer satisfaction, and customer hot buttons, using qualitative and quantitative measures and techniques

I say all this to say that this metaphor of multiple approaches or layers of defense is valuable. Don’t assume 1 approach, layer, or technique is sufficient. But also, don’t keep adding cornerbacks/backups thinking more is better. Instead, proactively figure out what your risk tolerance or needs are, and then design to that.

(Go Hoos!)

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