Big data is a modern phenomenon transforming businesses of today. Organisations hold vast swathes of data, from historic and current orders to detailed insights about supply chain operations. This information, combined with external data such as market intelligence and even weather patterns, can provide businesses with a foundation on which to base their planning and decision-making. Business intelligence and analytical solutions pull valuable insights from huge datasets. From workforce optimisation to cost management, access to big data and the tools that manage and evaluate it allows firms to streamline key parts of their business. Adopters of modern solutions are seeing vast improvements in all areas of the company.
Unbelievably, the boardroom, where key decisions are made by the leaders of an organisation, has fallen behind the technological curve. Despite the implementation of modern solutions across various departments of a business, as well as the acknowledgement of its success, C-suites still support boardroom conversations with static reports, rather than with the real-time analysis that these discussions deserve – and need. Spreadsheets provide last quarter’s numbers on printed reports pushed across the boardroom table which, while useful to many, provides no mechanism to understand the impact of potential changes. What’s more, this method of measuring success is full of risk with spreadsheets prone to human error. In fact, only 44 percent of organisations state that their spreadsheets used for reporting purposes are well controlled and error free (FSN 2018). This is very concerning considering spreadsheets remain the most dominant format of reporting still in use today.
Even if spreadsheets were to miraculously become consistently error free overnight, this format of reporting is no longer enough for the modern business. Whilst it is important to review previous performance analytics to measure success against KPIs, more focus must be placed on future performance indicators. Modern solutions give businesses the power and put the future in their hands. Success will be obtained by those who focus on ‘will we be successful?’ rather than asking ‘were we successful?’.
You don’t have to be CEO of a FTSE 100 company to know that we are among some of our most difficult and unpredictable times, with businesses vulnerable to negative market influences. World issues have serious implications on the economy. A public health pandemic, Brexit, and trade wars are all world events that have threatened global supply chains. With all three running in unison, it can quite easily be concluded that the impact will be long lasting, and, in all likelihood, there will be many more world events threatening businesses in the future. A hostile environment can have a devastating effect on a business and in many cases can cause them to cease trading, which can be seen most recently in the cases of Flybe and Laura Ashley. A failure to plan and model a business for the future, potentially filled with harsh unknowns, is gambling on whether the business will survive long-term. A business may not be able to prevent natural disasters, or drastic tariffs imposed by sulking world leaders, but there are tools that they can use to prepare for future negative factors and minimise the risk of the threats that they pose. In a world more uncertain than ever, the planning process of a business has never been so important. Predictive analytical technology and crisis scenario planning allow businesses to consider potential future negative influences and manipulate data in real-time to test how their business will perform. This allows for robust decision-making, with business planning technology enabling C-suites to stress test each decision.
Automation, where possible, is incredibly useful for business. Business intelligence tools cross-reference vast data sets, removing the need for professionals to trawl through the data manually. This removes human error and also allows more time for company leaders to convert the insights provided by the data into a clear strategy. With more datapoints available than ever, reporting becomes overwhelming, timely, and inaccurate, if modern solutions are not used to manage and evaluate the data.
Today, the boardroom must be much more agile with their use of data, measuring and predicting future performance to enable better decision-making. This digital transformation provides the boardroom with unprecedented clarity of the business, allowing for easier identification of next steps. With so many different influences on a company, be it internal or uncontrollable external factors, it is vital that modern solutions are embraced to give leaders the full picture.
The benefits of a digital, data-driven, boardroom are as clear as day. Yet for many businesses, making this a reality requires a complete culture shift. Companies should embrace this transformation, where data is at the heart of the boardroom, and is used and manipulated by senior executives in real-time to strategise and direct their company. It is only when the boardroom is provided with a complete picture of the company and potential influences, that it becomes its most effective.
Written by Gavin Fallon.
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