Uncertainty is the new normal. In the era of fake news and unpredictable market changes, there is however one thing you can trust and control: data. Data doesn’t lie, but it needs to be secure, for it to be harnessed by business leaders in decision making.
“Uncertainty is killing growth,” ran the FT headline at the end of December 2018. The hook for its story was a new paper from the IMF and Stanford University that launched a World Uncertainty Index (WUI) – a rough measure of global instability.
Uncertainty is neither a recent phenomenon, nor one affected solely by politics. The WUI has been significantly above its long-run average since 2010, reflecting a host of structural problems facing global economies. And for most organisations, ‘disruption’ has been a feature for even longer.
There are few industries that haven’t been completely overhauled by technology in the past 20 years. Speed of decision-making and execution in operations, deal-doing and communications now define competitiveness.
But as any CFO knows, risk management is double-sided. It requires rapid adaptation and the ability to seize opportunities – often created by the very uncertainty that hampers planning. And it means ensuring the foundations of the business are firm and protected from potential shocks.
Either way, decision-makers need to be able to trust what they’re hearing about the business and their markets. Data security is a must – without it, all stakeholders, not just internal decision-makers, will lose faith in the organisation’s ability to either defend its position or find growth. And now the two sides of the risk coin are converging around technologies that enhance enterprise planning.
With cloud-based systems, it’s never been easier to gather timely and accurate data across disparate organisations. By weaving in customer and supplier data – including behavioural insights, for example, to help model future trends – decision-makers can fine-tune tactical decisions in a more agile way.
Then there’s artificial intelligence. Forget the hype about driverless cars and autonomous drones. AI is already finding its most compelling applications within enterprise decision-making.
John Merino, chief accounting officer at FedEx, was interviewed recently for the report Agile Finance Unleashed: The Key Traits of Digital Finance Leaders. And he was clear on what this meant for his team: “The combination… creates a tremendous opportunity to capitalize on some really big efficiency gains in virtually every staff function. The big win for us is to liberate that time and move finance up the value chain in what it delivers to the organisation.”
The survey found 46 percent of tech-savvy finance leaders report positive revenue growth, compared with only 29 percent of tech-challenged leaders. Those adopting AI are much more likely to be growing. But only 11 percent of finance leaders had done so – which suggests an opportunity ready to be seized.
Put simply, when the world is more uncertain, making sure your own data is trustworthy, timely, properly analysed and actionable is the best way to manage risk on both up- and down-sides.
Check out how other business leaders are approaching data in this day and age.