Did you ever have to finally decide?

Perhaps you can’t choose whether to go with software supplier A or B. Perhaps even opening your office door requires some thought. Well take heart, because you’re not alone.

Two reports released last month confirm what we already suspected, that today’s business world is a harried place where executives are forced to make more critical decisions than ever before, armed with only a fraction of the information they need.

You might not want to tell your CEO this, but despite all the fancy software you signed off on over the past several years, not to mention the Web, e-mail and cell technology we can’t live without, two-thirds of those polled for one of the studies say they often make decisions based on nothing more than “gut feel.”

The raw data is out there, mind you; it’s just buried under lots of white noise. In fact, 59 per cent of those polled in the other study say the amount of information is doubling or tripling every 12 months. More than three-quarters of those surveyed said they could point to bad decisions made where poor information was the primary culprit.

So, it’s fair to say that we’re facing a problem here, one that’s both been created — and can be helped — by IT. What these reports reveal more than anything is a serious lack of strategic planning when it comes to data gathering. Perhaps it’s out of our hands entirely. Nahum Goldmann, president of ARRAYDevelopment, an Ottawa-based business consultancy, says the epidemic of rushed decisions should be seen as a symptom of another, much larger problem. “Executives in this country have to be 10 times as fast and 10 times as smart.”

That’s because Canadians play on two different levels on the global business stage — either as part of multinational firms, in which case “decisions are not made in Canada, period,” Goldmann noted, or as a leader at a standalone Canadian firm. “Then it’s a survival game.” In such a harsh operating environment, the use of software to gather more information is moot.

That said, I suspect a similar poll done in 1964 would have come to a similar conclusion, that executives then would have felt just as pressured to make hasty decisions based on what they saw as poor data. Such is life in the business world. We’re also still tying together the various software silos that we’ve amassed over the past several years.

But there’s always room for improvement. That’s all you can, or should, strive for.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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