Half (48%) of UK C-suite leaders now feel less confident making business-critical decisions compared to before the pandemic, according to the latest research commissioned by enterprise customer data platform, Treasure Data.
The survey of 500 C-Suite decision makers in the UK explores the impact the pandemic has had on leadership decision-making, and reviews whether these decision making processes are fit for purpose in a new era of unpredictability.
The subsequent report, titled ‘Better Decisions in the age of unpredictability’, finds that on average C-Suite members in the UK spend 44% of their time on business-critical decision making. Yet these figures are likely to have risen during the pandemic as Covid-19 caused brands to move their services online during lockdown, and the public adapted to working from home.
Now, over half (57%) of the UK C-Suite report spending more time deliberating business-critical decisions since the start of the pandemic. Yet, that extra time hasn’t necessarily led to an increase in the effectiveness of business-critical decisions. 45% say those decisions are now more effective than they were pre-pandemic, but 47% haven’t noticed any difference, and 7% believe their decisions are less effective now, indicating a significant level of decision paralysis amongst the UK’s most senior business leaders.
Andrew Stephenson, Director of Marketing EMEA at Treasure Data, commented on the research: “Our research reveals a crisis in confidence in decision-making at the very top of businesses across the UK. This year will see the second anniversary of the pandemic and during this period decisions have had to be made at breakneck speed, putting business leaders under immense pressure, often with many data points to consider. As businesses gear up for 2022, in an operating environment that has permanently changed due to the pandemic, it’s clear that decision-making processes require a reset.”
What is causing this decision paralysis?
The report highlights two key areas likely to be causing inefficient decision-making, the former a reduction in C-Suite confidence, and the latter, a lack of knowledge around the role that data plays in making better decisions.
- FOMU: The fear of messing up
While the vast majority of C-suite members surveyed (95%) claim they are confident or very confident making business-critical decisions in general, these levels have taken a substantial knock over the course of the pandemic.
Half (48%) of C-Suite respondents stated that they are less confident in decision making post-pandemic, while 56% revealed that they worry about making the wrong decisions as stakes continue to rise, and a third (32%) agreed decision making is the most complicated it’s ever been.
In addition, 56% also admitted to feeling pressure on the decisions being made, and over a third (37%) stated that stress on making decisions quickly with little to no deliberation time impacts their confidence. Other factors that weigh heavy on the minds of the C-suite when making decisions are lacking enough data (31%) and internal opposition (27%).
It’s therefore no surprise that a third (32%) admitted to frequently making the wrong decision.
- The data dilemma
More than half of the C-Suite (56%) cite data as being critically important when it comes to making decisions, and three-quarters (74%) believe good quality data gives them a competitive advantage over other businesses. In fact, the amount of UK business leaders reporting that data is very important to business-critical decisions is 45% higher now compared to pre-pandemic.
Yet a worrying inconsistency between the importance placed on data and the quality of its collection and deployment is becoming clear, undermining the efficiency of leadership decision-making.
Four in ten (39%) leaders say they don’t feel confident interpreting and using data to make informed decisions, whilst 41% believe they don’t have the right tools in place to properly interpret and use data in decisions.
C-suite executives listed internal knowledge (91%), customer data (89%) and sales data (87%) as the most important for day-to-day business-critical decisions.
Yet despite this, only around half of respondents actually collect good quality data in these areas and have the skills to use it effectively and a significant proportion collect the data, but do not have the skills to interpret it.
- 57% of respondents said they collect and use internal data effectively, while 27% say that they collect it, but don’t have the skills to use it.
- 55% of respondents said they collect and use customer data effectively, while 29% say that they collect it, but don’t have the skills to use it.
- 52% of respondents said they collect and use sales data effectively, while 31% say that they collect it, but don’t have the skills to use it.
Even more worryingly, 16% of respondents do not collect internal data or customer data and 17% of respondents do not collect sales data at all.
This is causing unnecessary data blind spots within business, and impacting the efficacy of decisions being made – something which has already been weakened due to the pandemic.
Andrew Stephenson continued: “An inability to make effective decisions and interpret data with confidence and speed has tangible business impact – from failing to discover new customers, to losing those they do have through inadequate customer experience. Data literacy and its deployment is critical to this, and businesses must act now to eliminate data blind spots in a bid to make better decisions for the year ahead.”
In addition, the research finds a correlation between the level of pressure placed on decision making and company size, with leaders at bigger businesses having the biggest burden to bear:
- Over three quarters (77%) of medium to large sized businesses say that since the onset of the pandemic they feel increased pressure to make the right decisions, compared to 61% of leaders at smaller businesses.
- And, as decisions taking longer are requiring quicker ‘right first time’ outputs, it’s unsurprising that decision making has become the most complicated for larger organisations (65%) versus 54% of smaller businesses. And this isn’t just causing stress to bigger businesses – it’s leading to mistakes, too.
- Whilst just 23% of small and micro businesses report that they frequently make the wrong decisions, this almost doubles (41%) for medium and large companies.