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Using data to drive decision-making in the digital era – BOARD International

02 Jul 2019
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Article by Board International Asia Pacific general manager Mark Sands

Managing a business means making decisions.

Dozens of daily ones to keep the enterprise humming along and, less often, larger and more strategic ones about the health and future direction of the company itself.

Business intelligence tools can be useful aids for executives weighing up their options and deciding which way to jump.

Too often though, they only provide insight into one aspect of operations, not the bird’s eye view that’s needed to allow business leaders to appreciate all the ramifications, both positive and negative, of the critical commercial decisions they’re called on to make.

Augmenting traditional business intelligence solutions with corporate performance management tools can deliver the additional decision support capability businesses need to make optimum decisions across the enterprise.

The make or break decisions enterprises face in 2019 and beyond

Digital disruption, uncertain political and economic conditions and changing consumer tastes are making ‘business as usual’ an impossible proposition for thousands of enterprises.

Digital innovation is driving change across markets and economies and reinventing the way companies relate to their suppliers and customers, the report notes.

The collective opportunity these new market entrants enjoy represents an existential threat to existing businesses which are unwilling or unable to start doing things differently.

Taking an evidence-based approach to transformation

Making decisions about what needs to change; when, where and how, is key to the process of digital transformation.

Taking a strategic, long-term approach, rather than embarking on a series of tactical or knee-jerk responses, is the modus operandi most likely to serve an enterprise well in uncertain times.

Working out where you want to go and how you’ll get there is less daunting for leaders who have a deep understanding of how the enterprise is faring on a number of key fronts, and an understanding of the probable consequences specific decisions and actions will create.

Business intelligence can provide some of the pieces of the puzzle, in the form of data which details revenue, sales and marketing investment and activity and the like.

Typically, though, it’s just a snapshot of where things are at now.

It’s ‘must know’ information but, it doesn’t offer any insight into the input that’s likely to be needed to affect a desired outcome – such as whether putting additional resources into the sales department will lead to more business in a key market segment, for example.

This is where Corporate Performance Management (CPM) software can help.

It includes forecasting, budgeting and planning functions and uses graphical dashboards to summarise and present salient corporate data.

CPM software makes it possible for decision-makers to map project progress and performance against corporate goals and strategies and the key performance indicators associated with them.

Typically, these include turnover, return on investment, operating costs and capital expenditure.

Seamlessly linking the data that’s used for analysis and reporting allows decision makers to undertake planning and forecasting activities based on that data.

Modelling different scenarios makes it possible to identify the course of action most closely aligned to corporate goals.

It’s about bringing data-driven insights to life – harnessing them to inform decisions that are made on hard evidence and likely outcomes, not gut feel and hope.

In these times of rapid and unprecedented change, the latter is something companies rely upon at their peril.

The right tools for a digitally driven future

Making smart, timely choices to evolve, adapt and pivot will be critical to survival and ongoing success.

Businesses which fail to do so can expect to see their profitability and viability erode, in some cases rapidly, as more agile upstarts make inroads on their market share.

Against this backdrop, supporting the business decision-making process with technology that allows enterprises to exploit the insights contained within their organisational data to the full is more than merely a nice idea.

It makes sound commercial sense for companies that would prefer to enter the digital era on the front foot.