Decision - Image by Micha from Pixabay Salesforce has published findings from a global survey by YouGov of around 10,000 business leaders about the importance of data in business. There are some fascinating insights into how leaders from different nations view the importance and applicability of data.

Salesforce’s Untapped Data Research identifies that whilst most business leaders feel that data is critical in decision-making, most are not making data-driven decisions in some areas.

Key findings

Key findings from the overall survey include:

  • 80% saw data as extremely or somewhat critical for making business decisions.
  • 73% either strongly or somewhat agree that data reduces uncertainty and helps make accurate decisions.
  • 66% strongly or somewhat agree that data minimise personal opinions or egos in a business conversation.

The study also investigates where organisations use data. The results seem at odds with the first set of findings, with the minority using data to drive decision-making across areas such as the following:

  • Deciding on pricing in line with economic conditions such as inflation – 33%
  • Launching in new markets – 29%
  • Determining climate targets – 17%
  • Determining diversity & inclusion policies – 21%

Why!?

This raises two further questions. Where is data being used, and why is it not being used? The first question was not asked in the survey, and with no qualitative follow-up, it will remain a mystery. Insights in answer to the second question were highlighted by the challenges organisations face in unlocking their data.

  • 41% cited a lack of understanding of the data, either too complex or not accessible
  • 33% are unable to generate insights from their data
  • 30% have too much data

The survey then asked about only one aspect of overcoming the barriers. It identified whether organisations are investing in training to develop employee data skills. On average, over the next 6 months, 73% of employers will either maintain (47%) or increase investment (26%) in data skills.

The survey did not ask about the current technology in use, whether it worked or needed further investment. Training is important, but organisations may find that investment is wasted without the right tools.

Juan Perez, Chief Information Officer of Salesforce
Juan Perez, Chief Information Officer of Salesforce

Juan Perez, Chief Information Officer of Salesforce, commented, “Business leaders are experiencing one of the toughest economic markets of our time, but they have an untapped advantage for better decision-making: their data. The secret to driving true insights is marrying data with analytics. A combination of data, analytics, and the necessary data skills enables companies to maximize their technology investments and uncover opportunities that drive business strategy and strengthen customer trust.”

A national viewpoint

The Untapped Data Research contains demographic information by nationality, gender generation and work sector (public/private/unidentified. It is unclear whether the survey also asked about the industry. However, only the breakdown by nationality was available to Enterprise Times. Salesforce may make further data analysis available in the future.

The respondents were made up from:

  • Singapore (1,102)
  • India (1,095)
  • Australia (1,072)
  • Japan (1,026)
  • UK (1,011)
  • U.S. (1,010)
  • France (1,008)
  • Germany (1,005)
  • Brazil (1,004)
  • Mexico (504)

It means the data set is significant, and the differences between answers are interesting. However, a caveat must be made in that different nationalities will interpret each question differently. Some nations provide very different answers but may not be acting differently.

Europe lags in the importance of data for decision making

For example, when understanding that data is critical to decision-making, France (65%) and Germany (54%) were well below the average. Perhaps worryingly, France (16%), the UK (15%) and Germany (12%) also saw data as not critical and did not use it to guide strategic decisions. 7% of French respondents also didn’t know if data is critical to decision-making. In contrast, 71% of Brazilian respondents found data extremely critical, and another 24% somewhat critical.

Data is seen as important in delivering quality business conversations. However, in Japan, only 55% see it as reducing uncertainty and helping to make more accurate decisions. Again Brazil (88%) is the biggest advocate of data. Only 53% of Japanese respondents felt that data helps to build trust. However, 31% of Japanese did not agree or disagree with this, which may be a culturally driven response to the question.

Data has reduced the impact of personal opinions and egos in Brazil (84%), Mexico (79%) and India (76%), the top three where, most agree. Not in Japan, though, where only 8% strongly agree with this, and 38% somewhat agree.

When looking at where organisations use data for decision-making, the results were more even. The Brazil respondents say they make data-driven decisions but do not do so significantly more than other nations for the categories asked.

The top answers for each category are:

  • Deciding on pricing in line with economic conditions such as inflation – Brazil and Singapore – 41%
  • Launching in new markets – Mexico – 43%
  • Determining climate targets – India 23%
  • Determining diversity & inclusion policies – India and Brazil – 31%

Who is investing in data skills

Despite the recent hype in the UK about data skills, organisations are not looking to invest. Whether this is because the economic climate is squeezing budgets is unclear, but only 14% will increase budgets, and 59% will maintain them. Only Japan has a lower attitude to investment (8% increasing, 48% maintaining). Brazil 88%, India (85%), Mexico (82% and the US (81%) will increase or maintain investment in data skills training.

Enterprise Times: What does this mean?

Without a qualitative survey, the results from this survey are much harder to interpret. It gives insights into how business leaders perceive the importance of data-driven decisions. However, it is clear that the desire does not always translate into reality, and gut-based decision-making still prevails.

The questions, however, were not extensive. The questions about barriers organisations face were limited and did not investigate why people made these responses. Also, without detailed demographic data from the different industries, it is unclear whether the responses from each country may be slanted by a specific industry.

Two hot topics for 2023 are climate and diversity. If data-driven decisions are not being made in these two categories, does that open up the likelihood for bias, especially on diversity? Even if it is unconscious bias?

Based on this survey, European countries have some catching up to do, both believing in data-driven decision-making and applying data to decision-making.

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