The business landscape never stands still; changes are a necessary part of its evolution. As Heraclitus is widely quoted, change is indeed the only constant. But when the pace of change is accelerated, it can bring industries to their knees. When the pandemic hit, businesses – irrespective of the sector – faced the sharpest shifts in attitudes, behaviours and perceptions. Fast forward two years and surging inflation, labour shortages, supply chain disruption and uncertainty about the future have laid even more obstacles at our feet. Written by Chaitanya (Chai) Rajebahadur, (pictured ) Executive Vice President and Head of Europe for Zensar Technologies

Navigating this ‘new world’ of business can be both devastating and exciting for decision-makers, but the good news is, the fog of uncertainty is navigable and effective decision-making can be achieved. We have to look beyond the silos, we have to regain our confidence, and reconsider our approaches to both risk and opportunities that maximise value.

We must do this by tapping into the lifeblood of any business – which remains unchanged amidst the storming landscape – our customers and our employees. Understanding how they think and interact, listening to what they want and need, and identifying positive and negative behaviours is mission-critical for businesses if they are to rethink their approach to risk and value and ultimately thrive in a massively competitive market.

The importance of a human-centred approach 

Treasure Data recently revealed that almost half (48%) of UK C-suite leaders now feel less confident making business critical decisions compared to data published before the pandemic. To understand how to react as businesses, we must first focus on a human-centred approach, in particular their shift in values, behaviours and consumption.

There are a number of ways businesses can integrate this to remedy these issues. One is starting with organisational insight and speaking to employees from across departments in the context of their working environments to get a sense of the pain points. Immersion into the business and reflecting on bigger strategic objectives with the people who will ultimately do the work to deliver them can be empowering too.

Another way to approach the challenge is to use service design to map all of the nested, layered dependencies within service lines and products. Often, products are nested within bigger services and each has its own set of actors and technological dependencies which need to be understood then assessed through the lens of uncertainty and constraint that we find ourselves in today. Take a well-known UK supermarket brand for example. They sell groceries, finance, clothing lines and insurance – instore and online. How interconnected are their touchpoints? How malleable are the systems? How ready are they to respond to emerging needs? 

 Once a picture has been formed, clearly replaying this to the organisation regarding the environment, discovery work and changes in strategy (that will inform the trajectory of the business) – is crucial. These presentations don’t need to be kept behind closed doors, socialise them. Transparency is not a silver bullet, but it can empower an organisation coming to grips with the nature of radical uncertainty with a clearer overview of the current situation. 

 An organisation is only as good as its weakest experience

Interactions with a business can trigger an immediate and lingering effect on a customer or employee’s sense of trust and loyalty, particularly in times of crisis. This is why an examination of customer and employee journeys and data on what these people want and need has allowed businesses to address what needs to be prioritised and satiate customers. 

 In sum, insight is your friend; removing bias in decision making, prioritising goals and heavily reducing the chances of making the wrong decision. A mix of targeted qualitative and quantitative metrics about key internal or external touchpoints is essential to focus initiatives and evolve them. Using this data and combining it with a strategic awareness of an uncertain world helps to check that strategy e.g. does the employee or customer reality match up with the supposed uncertain reality, or are some things more concrete and immutable than they seem? 

Technology is indispensable for decision intelligence

A recent survey of global communication service providers revealed that one-third rated lack or denial of access to new technology that can solve old problems as a major challenge. 

From the cloud to analytics to security systems, access to technology is vital for equipping businesses with the necessary tools to make the decisions reached a reality. Often these technologies can offer speed, scale or additional resilience in the face of unplanned events from the simple use of Zoom to the hybrid cloud configurations that keep digital estates working in lock-down peaks or market woes. 

Moreover, productivity and collaboration are two essential factors for enabling business decision making success, and often it’s the technology experiences employees have that make or break this. The key is ensuring the right technology applications are used at the right time and the evolution of existing systems with smarter overarching layers, because ultimately technology is a medium for experience – and all challenges link back to this for employees and customers alike. 

Summing up

The inability to make effective decisions with confidence and speed, and having business models designed in a way that facilitates cross-functional understanding, is resulting in tangible business impact and ultimately affecting how decisions are being made. Now is the time for businesses to bring empowerment back to the decision makers through human-centred approaches, experience and technology.