By Dave Miller
Vice President, Strategic Planning
Businesses face an intimidating set of circumstances with each passing day. The ever-increasing availability of data combined with incrementally blurred lines between companies and the industries they serve means that making good decisions in a timely manner can separate great companies from average ones.
Data comes from an increasing array of sources, from sensors on medical devices and packages to social media postings to machine log data and archives of scanned physical documents. One estimate, from Domo’s Data Never Sleeps report, predicts that by 2020, 1.7 MB of data will be created every second for every person on earth. Bottom line: Analyzing and interpreting data to make effective decisions is a challenge and a requirement that is not going away.
Add to this the blurring lines between industries, or what McKinsey calls ‘sectors without borders.’ The phenomenon is a result of digital technologies reducing transaction costs, which is, in turn, changing customer expectations for customization, speed and delivery methods. Jeff Bezos has expressed this a bit differently, infamously saying, “Your margin is my opportunity.” The scenario is playing out in ecosystems like healthcare and retail where CVS has changed its strategy by eliminating the sale of cigarettes and acquiring Aetna to shift into healthcare. It’s also manifesting in automotive and technology where car companies are investing in operating systems to maintain direct connections to drivers, and tech companies are stepping into autonomous vehicles because they see them as mobile devices that can consume their content.
So, with organizations wrestling with information overload and facing competitive threats from unexpected places, smart decisions are becoming more and more elusive. And data shows that making smart decisions is a hallmark of top performing companies. According to the CEO Genome Project by Harvard Business Review, one of the four traits of high performing CEO’s is the ability to make decisions earlier, faster and with great conviction. Data informs those decisions and gives these leaders a definitive advantage in the marketplace to win against the competition.
How will you win? One way to improve decision making is through a well-defined process with clearly defined roles. It starts with the desire to make the best decisions possible to achieve specific goals. In order to make those decisions, taking an inventory of how decisions are made currently is an important early step. In some cases, organizations may need to improve an established decision forum or create a new one as a means for properly aligning the stakeholders associated with each decision.
Making the forums effective includes being explicit about who needs to attend, defining the roles of each participant and prescribing the information required for an effective decision. At Jabil, we have found using standard frameworks to be extremely beneficial in the strategic planning role definition process. In addition, using standard frameworks has reduced the time our executive team spends on decisions by more than fifty percent.
The information required to make the forums effective and the decisions well-informed are assumptions and insights. Assumptions are critical because they are foundational to the expectations about the future, while insights are the new understandings that drive the recommended decisions or actions. Producing this information is one requirement, but documentation of the assumptions and insights is even more important. Documentation allows the organization to monitor the decisions – checking in on a routine basis to vet and verify assumptions and progress – and becoming part of an early warning system that informs the need to revisit a decision or potentially double down.
A well-defined and disciplined decision-making process not only saves critical time, money and cycles, it gives leadership the power to make effective and lucrative decisions with speed. And that ultimately informs a powerful marketing strategy. Clear decisions based on informed data allows marketing to drive aligned programs that speak to the right targets, at the right time in the media to support the right buying choices. And, understanding those variables so as to drive downstream value in the process requires a seat at the table from the start. After all, marketing’s real power comes when it’s creating markets that drive incremental growth by prescriptively aligning the offering to the needs and appetite of the customer based on such key drivers as value, price, and form factor. You wouldn’t sell ice to eskimos or fish to a fisherman. The same rational thought applies here. Don’t try to build a strategy without data and succeed without upstream market development insights and downstream programs that inform compelling value.
In our increasingly digital ecosystem – where new markets are created every day and often in totally unpredictable industries – strategy built on a foundation of data is gold for business. And, it turns to green when marketing is given the opportunity to mine the value of the currency from its inception.
Dave Miller is Vice President of Strategic Planning at Jabil Inc., a $22 billion manufacturing and supply chain services company. He and his team are responsible for strategic planning for the corporation, which includes Market Research, Market Intelligence and Portfolio Management and Analytics. Dave has been in his current role since May 2014. A thirteen-year veteran of Jabil, he has held various other roles in Strategic Planning and Strategic Development during his tenure.
Prior to Jabil, Dave lived in New York City and was an equity analyst on Wall Street. He covered the Electronics Manufacturing Services and the Electronics Supply Chain industries. He was one of the founders of an independent research firm that was acquired by a European broker-dealer. Other roles Dave held on Wall Street were corporate bond analyst for the Electric and Gas Utility and Oil and Gas industries, and FP&A.