The new art and science of decision making

Businesses make thousands of decisions a day. But what happens when the time comes for a business to shift course? These are the big decisions that executives know will impact their organisations in big ways. In the 2014 Big Decisions survey Gut & gigabytes: Capitalising on the art & science in decision making we were interested to understand better how data and analytics play a part.

Video: Yann Bonduelle gives an overview of our findings

Yann Bonduelle gives an overview of our findings

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Businesses and public sector organisations make thousands of decisions each day. Most are routine. Many are supported by data and analytics, but when it comes to decisions in the C-Suite - the big decisions, the ones that will make a big impact, do data and analytics play a role there? Our research with the Economist Intelligence Unit looked at the nature of big decisions in UK organisations and how they're being made.

Business leaders told us that the most important area of strategic decision making is growing their businesses, but the most common type of decisions are those driven by cost and margin pressures. Over half, for example, expect to make a decision in the next 12 months about collaborating with competitors in order to reduce costs.

Over the past two years, 83% of senior executives surveyed, felt there had been a notable improvement in big decision making. One reason for that is the use of data and analytics. For 40% of our UK respondents the use of internal and external data is what has changed most in the past two years.

As expected, executives make their decisions using a mixture of art and science. For their most recent decision, 41% relied most on their own intuition and experience; 31% looked to colleagues for advice or experience; and only 23% relied on data and analytics as the single main driver of the decision.

There are three reasons for this. First, a surprising 61% felt that reliance on data and analytics had impacted their business detrimentally in the past. Second, the questionable quality and accuracy of data. And third, the ability to find useful nuggets within the mass of data available.

Addressing these concerns will help improve the quality of big decisions - leaving a little less to chance. And this would reduce business risk.

Infographic: Highlights from our survey

UK Big decisions