Data’s Role in Powering Decision-Making

Editor's note: Automated speech-to-text transcription, edited lightly for clarity.

On May 24, 2023 Momentive gave a webinar in which they shared results from a recent study on how decisions were being made in business. They shared great insights into the process and the role that data has in decision-making. Hear from Liwen Xu, product marketing manager and Laura Wonski, director of research to find out how you can change your decision-making processes to best include data and increase your speed. 

Webinar transcription:

Joe Rydholm:

Hi everybody and welcome to our webinar “The Future of Work: Data’s Role in Powering Decision-Making.” I’m Quirk’s Editor, Joe Rydholm and before we get started let's quickly go over the ways you can participate in today's discussion. You can use the chat tab to interact with other attendees and you can use the Q&A tab to submit questions to the presenters during the session and we will answer as many as we have time for during the Q&A portion. Our session today is presented by Momentive. Enjoy the webinar!

Liwen Xu

Hi everyone. Welcome to our presentation on the future of work. We're excited to share some of our findings around data's role empowering decision making, especially decentralized decision making. I am Liwen and I'm a product marketing manager at Momentive where I have led go to market for our global panel Survey Monkey audience and Market Insights Solutions. And I'm joined today by Laura.

Laura Wronski 

Hi everyone. My name's Laura Wronski , I'm our director of research at Momentive

Liwen Xu

Great. So we will start by giving you an introduction to Momentive and our insight solutions. Then we'll dive into some research we conducted and paint a picture of the current state of decision making in the workplace and we'll cover worker's perceptions and unmet needs. And then touch on how data plays a role in decentralized decision making. 

For those of you who don't know Momentive, Momentive is the maker of SurveyMonkey. If you've been in the insights and market research space, you've likely heard of SurveyMonkey. We are a survey platform that allows everyone from students to execs to quickly and easily get survey-based feedback. 

As a leader in agile research and experience management, we offer our customers a way to easily understand and take action on brand market and product insights as well as customer feedback. On top of that, our solutions benefit from our immense scale in history building research technology. 

We are trusted by 98% of the Fortune 500, 2.2 million responses are collected on our platform every day. And in our 22 plus years of business, that's amounted to over 55 billion questions that's answered on our platform. That kind of scale powering our AI engine is why capabilities like our sentiment analysis beat Google and IBM Watson in accuracy and we've grown our own panel and partner network to over 175 million people worldwide.

So before we dive into our research today, I wanna give you some background on what we'll be speaking about. The pandemic in the past couple of years has tested organizations over and over and it's really shown that agility and the ability to adapt is what's most important for businesses to survive. 

Now with the looming recession, we are again being challenged to make smarter decisions on tighter deadlines and that's why decentralized decision making has become such a popular decision making structure among knowledge workers. 

So for workers in fields like marketing, law, research or engineering, they prefer a flatter hierarchy where workers at all stages of their careers are able to make impactful decisions. I'll turn it over to Laura to offer some insights into the current state of organizational decision making.

Laura Wronski 

Great, thanks Liwen. As Liwen mentioned, we wanted to understand how knowledge workers are approaching decision making in today's environment and what they need to do to make decisions with confidence. So to answer this question, we fielded a survey among more than 7,000 knowledge workers in the U.S. 

Our findings show that companies and knowledge workers want to take a data-driven approach to making decisions. A hefty 77% of knowledge workers say that their organizations are increasingly reliant on data to help inform business decisions. And when it comes to the data driven versus gut instinct dilemma, more knowledge workers are using data, 76% as compared to the 21% who say decision makers rely on gut instinct. 

We also found that when it comes to successful decision making, having the right data and insights is equally important to collaboration. The future of work requires an environment where different perspectives are shared and discussed, and where every decision can be tied back to data. Many knowledge workers are now operating in a hybrid work environment where there is increased appetite for flexibility and autonomy. 

Our findings show that companies are in fact adapting to workers' needs for autonomy as well as the pressures on businesses to make decisions with speed and agility. 46% of surveyed knowledge workers reported decision making is mostly decentralized at their organization.

We also found that workers across all levels are now making decisions on a regular basis. Companies are too big and the market is too competitive to wait for a decision from on high. A competitor will beat you with speed. So individual contributors in each department are making critical business decisions every day from a marketer refining an ad campaign based on performance to a customer support SU specialist, reviewing customer feedback data and surfacing a common pain point. These types of decisions help businesses be more responsive in today's environment.

At the same time, across all job levels, an overwhelming majority said that they always or sometimes wish they had access to more or better data. At this point I'll hand it back to Liwen to share more about perceptions and unmet needs in today's environment.

Liwen Xu

Awesome. Thank you Laura. So I'll go into what knowledge workers think of current decision making processes and what needs they may have that may be unfulfilled. 

So we compared workers in centralized decision making organizations with workers who make decentralized decisions in their organizations. And overall, we've found that agile decisions thrive under decentralized decision making structures. In fact, 74% of workers in decentralized structures believe that business critical decisions were made faster than ever compared with just 61% of workers in centralized structures. And 76% of workers in decentralized structures make decisions for the business, customers or employees at least once a week as compared with 65% of workers in centralized structures. 

So as a result, many knowledge workers gravitate towards decentralized decision making because it makes impactful decision making quicker and more empowering. 90% of workers in decentralized structures believe that their decision making structure contributes to their team's success versus only 71% of workers in centralized structures.

And when it comes to market changes and disruptions, 58% of those in decentralized structures felt that their companies were better suited to adapt to such changes compared to 49% of workers in centralized decision making structures. All of this is to say that decentralized decision making contributes to team success, adaptation to market changes and more agile impactful decision making. 

However, knowledge workers still have unmet needs in having the autonomy to make critical decisions. 86% of knowledge workers say that it's important to have decision making authority in their jobs. Yet 69% of knowledge workers are actually making impactful decisions on a regular weekly basis. This disparity will not only lead to employee dissatisfaction, but also missed opportunities with slower top-down decisions and decisions made without expertise from key workers.

It's more important than ever for companies and managers to enable decision makers across the organization and across job levels. Whether you're an individual contributor with a few years of experience or a director with several direct reports, you should be thinking of making decisions as if you are the CEO of your own domain. 

That being said, making impactful decisions requires adequate data to identify key issues and opportunities. I'll hand it off to Laura to tell you more.

Laura Wronski

Thank you, Liwen. So why is data so important in today's environment of decentralized decision making? Let's get to some insights.

Insights enable faster decision making when everyone is a decision maker. Data helps tell the story behind why someone should care and helps backup assessments. 

At Momentive we often approach decisions by bringing together leads from multiple functional areas in meetings that are geared towards walking away with a decision. This provides an opportunity for individual contributors and managers to present a business case and to discuss the pros and cons of a particular course of action. And when reaching an impasse during a discussion, refocusing on the data is what helps us to reach decisions faster. 

While the value is clear, half of knowledge workers say their organization has too much data and too few actionable insights in a sea of data sifting through the noise to draw relevant conclusions can be challenging. This is where data visualization tools and built-in analytics become critical by helping to surface key trends. And as we saw earlier across all job levels, the overwhelming majority reported gaps in not only the quantity, but also the quality of the data needed to make business decisions.

These gaps affect different roles more than others. Taking people in product, as an example, about half of respondents were worried that their team lacks enough data to make decisions. You've likely seen the stats that half of half or more of products fail. This comes down to knowledge workers not having consistent feedback loops or access to the right audience to pressure test hypotheses. 

We also dove into the specific data sources that knowledge workers use when making decisions. Market research and industry reports are heavily used while proprietary quantitative data is lower. 

Overall, each method has its pros and cons. Market research reports help distill key takeaways, but don't provide a competitive edge and quickly become stale. Proprietary quantitative data is timely and generates statistically significant conclusions, but it requires the right tools for collection and analysis. 

Interestingly, we found that among more senior job levels, reliance on quantitative data is highest but so is word of mouth data. The good news is, as we look ahead, most knowledge workers across all departments expect the organization to increase investment in the tools and software needed for decision making.

But across the board, leaders are embracing advanced technology for business decision making. A past Momentive study on bold decision making revealed that 70% of business leaders are using AI and ML, artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide insights for the decisions that their company is making. And nearly half said that that represents an increase in adoption and the use of such tools since the start of the pandemic in 2020. 

At Momentive, we offer one platform for all of your quantitative market research needs. Our AI powered insights platform includes expert methodologies, delivers automated insights and has a built-in audience panel to deliver quality responses on demand. We also offer purpose-built solutions for the most common research needs, including consumer segmentation, usage and attitudes and concept testing that helps knowledge workers make better decisions faster.

Liwen Xu

Awesome. So I would love to share with you all this example, just is a great example of a company that is embracing technology-based research to power decision making. 

For those of you who may not know, JUST as a plant-based food company that had been using traditional market research agencies to get a pulse on their target audiences, they had been targeting vegan buyers and wanted to expand it to a new market. However, using agencies proved to be slow and costly and this was a serious buffer for making agile decisions. 

And that's when JUST turned to Momentive for a market segmentation study. With our solution, they actually uncovered a new target market that they hadn't considered before meat eaters on plant-based diets. Knowing this, they were then able to refine their products, messaging and claims to appeal to this new target audience. With advanced technology like ours JUST was able to get quick high quality insights that any of their team members could run so that their team could make more impactful decisions faster.

Now I just love to leave you all with a few key takeaways from our presentation. 

First is, as research suggests, decision making among the knowledge workers is treading towards decentralization rather than mostly top-down decisions. 

And this decentralization in turn allows companies to make more agile decisions to respond more quickly to customer needs in changing market dynamics. 

Of course, insights are vital to enabling faster decision making in a decentralized environment, but plenty of knowledge workers seek gaps in the amount of data needed and quality of data needed to make impactful decisions. 

And that's why empowering employees with flexible research solutions that are tailored to the questions they have most and research that services key insights can encourage decentralized decision making. 

Thank you all for coming and feel free to put your questions in the Q&A as well as visit us at our virtual booth.