Authored by: CK Tan, Senior Director, Qlik
Business leaders have had to make some big decisions in the last year to ensure that employees are equipped with everything they need to do their jobs. Laptops, shared platforms, ergonomic desk chairs, trust.
I know what you’re thinking. The last one – trust – isn’t in quite the same league. But ask any business leader or management team what their biggest challenges have been as working environments shifted to home, and I guarantee that trust will be up there.
I don’t mean trust in employees to do their jobs and work hard. I think we have all seen the evidence showing that, in fact, most people have worked harder and are bowing under the pressure of an exaggerated “always on” culture. Nearly one third of APAC employees experienced an increase in burnout, with work and personal time crossing each other’s boundaries.
What I mean is trust from business leaders who are responsible for the success of the company and are used to having oversight of any decision-making. In an office environment, it’s easy to pop over to someone else’s desk or office or to insert yourself into a meeting. With today’s working from home setup, that level of visibility and the informal ability to influence every decision is impossible.
Business leaders have found themselves having to hand over responsibility for decision-making to technology in some instances. In APAC, more than half (51%) of respondents in a survey conducted by Qlik and IDC mentioned that their organisation has implemented AI/ML capabilities to aid the decision-making process.
As with most changes that have come about in the last year, this hand-over needed to happen sooner rather than later and has just been expedited because of the pandemic. If you consider the route that we’re on to the increasing pervasiveness of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in our working lives, this change was inevitable. If we can’t trust humans to make decisions, how on earth can we hand over responsibility to a machine? We could view the pandemic almost as a litmus test to see how different leaders within different industries might approach the introduction of AI-based decision-making in the future. In Singapore, for example, new initiatives on Artificial Intelligence were implemented in 2019 as part of Singapore’s vision of becoming a Smart Nation.
So, how do you go about establishing this trust?
There are the obvious steps that leaders can take to inject more trust into their relationships with their teams, such as defining clear decision-making processes and training employees to use them. These are of course important, but there is one crucial element that often gets forgotten. Information. Without good, accurate information how can you be confident that the decision it is informing is the right one?
We have seen so many companies assume that the information that they are basing important decisions on is correct. But how many can hand-on-heart, positively say that their information is truly accurate?
Now, I’m not trying to be a scare-monger. I’m not saying that companies shouldn’t trust their data because that would be stopping them from using what is absolutely the most powerful tool available to them to help understand and respond to changing situations. What I want to stress is that, as with anything, you get out what you put into your data pipeline. Organisations must aspire to put Active Intelligence, which delivers a state of continuous intelligence from real-time, up-to-date information designed to trigger immediate actions, at the heart of all decision-making.
If you are truly interested in optimising every business moment to achieve a trusted culture of decision-making, this is what you need to arm your employees with.
What needs to be done now?
To achieve this, leaders must prioritise three key data considerations:
Real-time data – the last 12 months have challenged our perception of time and how much can change overnight. More than ever, we’ve learned that how things stand today can be vastly different from yesterday, let alone a week or even a month ago. If the data that you are providing to employees to make decisions is out of date, then those decisions are also already out of date by the time they are made. You are constantly one step behind and playing catch up. This lag is only going to become more obvious as the number of operational decisions that are automated increases. Continuous data is critical to inform and trigger the right action when certain situations arise.
Data governance – this has become pivotal as the number of us working out of the office has exploded. Having stringent governance controls in place is important for two reasons. Firstly, it ensures that employees can access only the data that is appropriate to their role in line with data and industry regulations. Secondly, it is vital to improving decisions that are informed by data by improving its quality and accuracy.
Data literacy – it’s all very well and good tasking employees with making better decisions with data, but they can only do so with the right skills. They need to be trained to accurately interpret the data and come to the right conclusions. You might be surprised – indeed concerned - to learn then that while 63% of global employees make data-driven decisions every week, just 21% of the working population are data literate. That’s a staggeringly low proportion when you consider how much of our working lives are now reliant on data. It is imperative that leaders look at what they can do to close this data literacy gap in their organisation, to help their teams improve their own decision-making process and give them the tools to scrutinise those made by automated systems. The ability to recognise and investigate anomalies or outliers in the data will ensure that, as automation proliferates within business, we aren’t left with a blinkered view that exposes outcomes to bias.
If business leaders nail these three data challenges and take advantage of the much more dynamic relationship with information that Active Intelligence brings, then they will give themselves a far greater chance of success with decentralised decision-making and a culture of trust.
As Ernest Hemingway said: “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them”. With a little help from real-time, governed information of course.