“Decisions Determine Destiny”, said Thomas Monson, American author and religions leader, considered as prophet by many, who passed away at the start of this year. Aptly and emphatically enough, it summarizes the significance of decision-making in any sphere of activity. Decision-making is dear to some, dreadful to others. While the former enjoy it as a power symbol, the latter shun it as a responsibility difficult to shoulder. Yet, decisions are unarguably the most ‘decisive’ directors in any undertaking anyone could only dream in vain of escaping from.
Decisions are almost always about solving a problem or overcoming a challenge in accomplishing a goal. Decisions in Business are mostly directed towards increasing – and accordingly have a direct impact mainly on – brand value, profitability and growth. I say ‘mostly’ because there could be decisions of divestment too. But even in those, the core strategic objective is to increase brand value, maximize shareholder dividends and regain the eroding efficiency and focus.
In an increasingly complex and highly integrated globalized supply chain environment, decisions at every stage have a defining influence on the entire process of managing the supply chain. And they are closed loop. For instance, a consumer retail company analyzes consumer behavior along with associated attributes viz. regional influence, age group, literacy levels, etc. and plans inventory levels accordingly, which in turn could guide its procurement, production and distribution plans. At the same time, it could determine its marketing and advertising budget to influence consumer behavior and increase sales. Thus, consumer behavior would be both an input for and an output of demand planning and management, simultaneously feeding and measuring the efficiency of decision-making.
Decisions are multivariate functions relying on a legion of factors, which could act as their deterrents as well as determinants. Some of the predominant factors guiding and governing decisions are cognitive biases, perceptions, roles and positions, conflicts, timeliness, holistic view, consequences, fears, information, analysis and most importantly, outcomes. While cognitive abilities of a decision-maker could determine the speed, quality and accuracy of his or her decision-making, the conditioning and perceptions of the decision-maker may create biases that could act as deterrents in making effective decisions. Similarly, roles and positions could either accelerate decisions or create conflicts and competition delaying or degrading them.
Heuristics, a science of rules and techniques to solve problems, is a widely accepted framework which helps making decisions swiftly and efficiently. The adoption and effectiveness of heuristics for decision-making depend on these deterrents and determinants. In today’s ICT (Information and Communication Technology) age, heuristics work through data and optimization algorithms to analyze and process those data into information that can enable and support decision-making. These are, in concept, the decision support systems (DSS). They provide a common platform for multiple user roles across functions to view data and their analyzed output through their respective functional perspectives. This helps cut through decision deterrents of cognitive biases and roles, as the sanctity of data as single source of truth is retained. DSS are designed for ease of use and could be customized as well as enhanced by sector, size, scope, function and process to keep pace with business dynamics. Intelligent DSS combine the benefits of Big Data Analytics, Cloud Computing, Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence, the major pillars of ICT, to help make informed, accurate and timely decisions. The big challenge organizations face, however, is ironically about the ‘decision’ to evaluate and select a DSS! From the host of options available, they need to decide and select a DSS; one that is most relevant, suitable, affordable and sustainable to their business.
This is where Knowledge Experts come in. Professionals who have worked through designing and implementing DSS are best positioned to guide organizations in not only making these important decisions, but also overseeing their successful implementation. Numerous surveys and statistics clearly indicate that ICT is the most disruptive and important technology driving decisions in business and supply chain management. While the decision to select and adopt a DSS could be very challenging, the competitive advantage of strategic contextual intelligence, visibility, increased supply chain integration and efficiency it provides, is too valuable to allow any deterrence.
Collaborating with experienced Knowledge Experts has consistently proved to be a strong determinant of accurate and timely decision-making for organizations destined for success and growth. It is just a decision away.