Decision making is the very essence of executive management. Both the direction and speed at which the organisation travels are controlled from here.
As you are well aware though, decision making does not just reside in the depths of the boardroom. The strategic side of things may well fall to you and your immediate colleagues, but operational and tactical decisions are being made day in and day out right through the business, and the manner in which these decisions are made is cumulatively every bit as important as the executive decisions.
As markets become increasingly competitive the differences between you and your rivals become harder to maintain. Between 1988 when Carl Lewis set the 100 metre world record at the Seoul Olympic Games and 2008 when Usain Bolt did the same at the Beijing Olympics, hundreds of sprint athletes had put in millions of hours of training and the net result of all of this time and effort was an
improvement of 0.23 seconds. However, within one year Bolt had managed to trim a remarkable 0.11 seconds off his earlier time. In the same way it is quite impossible to anticipate when a step change will occur in business and it is the hard won incremental improvements that we have to rely on to define our successes.
Right now your organisation is sitting on top of an unseen and untapped resource that could be the catalyst to kick off any number of incremental improvements. The data amassed in each department of the company has the potential to be a goldmine. The buying trends of your customers; the discounts offered by your sales force; the marketing campaigns you’ve run; the commissions you’ve paid out; the credit risks you’ve taken; the carriage costs you’ve been charged; the satisfaction surveys you’ve conducted etc. If your staff had the opportunity to review the contents of the data they are holding in a holistic manner that could reveal the trends and patterns that run like an undercurrent in your business, they would without doubt consistently be making more informed and consequently better decisions. The drive to change a business towards a more evidence based culture is something of a hot topic at the moment and it is not as difficult to get started as you might think.
The latest entrants into the world of Business Analytics and Data Visualization software have significantly lowered the barriers to entry that previously existed with Business Intelligence (see The BI Revolution). Sophisticated in capability but simple in operation, these tools allow the interrogation of large data sets so as to reveal hitherto unknown facts. The software, from companies like Tableau Software, is easy to install is much faster and more straightforward to use than traditional databases or spreadsheets and will allow the user to produce clear and compelling visualizations. These can be published on the server and then shared between colleagues working in collaboration; distributed as dashboards for mass performance updates; or managed by using your existing network security for sensitive information. You can make a start with just one PC and scale up as far as you need.