On the Brink of a Revolution in Decision-making

Norman Marks, CRMA, CPA, is a vice president for SAP and has been a chief audit executive and chief risk officer at major global corporations for more than 20 years.

 

I truly believe that amazing developments are arriving that will make future decision-making far more effective. I want to talk about two in this post; admittedly one is more a hope and the other more a prediction.

The prediction can be expressed this way: 

In the near future, which is getting nearer every day, decision-makers will have moved from an experience-based process to an information-based process. They will have reliable, useful information delivered to the palm of their hand in near real time that will let them make better decisions faster.

Until now, those making decisions have placed great reliance on their experience and "gut" when making decisions. The information they have is typically historical, days if not months old. At times, the information is buried in reports or in a form that is not immediately useful. Studies have shown that even when the data exists within the organization and it is possible to "mine" it to produce the information they need, managers don’t know how to get it — or it takes too long.

In the absence of information on today’s state of affairs and trends, decision-makers rely extensively on their experience its results. Their decisions are not always the best.

I think we would all agree that you can make better decisions with better information. Better being faster, more current, more useful (e.g., highlighted for you, not buried). 

IDC captures much of what is happening when it says, in its 2013 predictions: “The ICT industry is in the midst of a once every 20-25 years shift to a new technology platform for growth and innovation. We call it the 3rd Platform, built on mobile devices and apps, cloud services, mobile broadband networks, big data analytics and social technologies.”

It’s not only that we have cloud, big data, mobile, social, in-memory computing, predictive analytics, and more. It’s that organizations are deploying a combination of these technologies to deliver near-real time insights, in a useful form (such as dashboard on mobile devices) that enable better decisions at speed.

Note that last phrase: "at speed." George Patton would love this technology, because being able to make decisions faster (when based on reliable and current information) is a sure recipe for success.

Now, we have the ability to mine that incredible mountain of big data, completing analysis in seconds instead of hours, and deliver the results to the manager’s tablet — wherever she is. If the manager needs to get more question, another dive into the data (i.e., another round of analytics) can be completed in seconds.

There isn’t time or space to explain or discuss all of the new technologies. But I would be happy to answer questions (please post in Comments).

The hope is that as organizations improve their understanding and practice of risk management, it will move from a separate and distinct activity to an integral and necessary part of decision-making. No decision can be a quality decision unless the potential effects of that decision — and alternative decisions — are understood. No decision can be a good decision without reliable, current, useful information on uncertainty, both the good and the bad that may lie ahead. 

Every manager will become a performance and risk manager. You can’t optimize long-term performance without optimizing potential outcomes — the essence of risk management. The risk officer becomes more of a mentor and coach, and nobody sees them as responsible for managing risk.

I welcome your views and commentary.  

Posted on Dec 18, 2012 by Norman Marks

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  1. Firstly, I agree whole-heartedly with your comments and to be honest, I for one am glad when we are at this stage. Our instincts will always remain a factor, however a decision based upon solid information is a step in the right direction. What we have to keep in mind though is, no matter what the information tells us, it is paramount that we keep a big picture of what really is happening out there. To quote Helmuth von Moltke "No battle plan survives contact with the enemy!"

    I would like to conclude by saying "The Age of Information has given man a new perspective, lets hope he does not end up drunk from his own stubbornness!"

     

  1.  There is an old military axiom that goes I'd rather have a plan based on 75% of the information and ready to go before the battle than a plan based upon 100% of the information delivered after the battle.  My point is that we can deliver more complete real time metrics to key decision makers. But those metrics will always quantify the data we do know. There will still be the risk of uncertainty associated with future events. That will remain a "gut feeling" based upon experience.  

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