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May 22, 2017

Need a Quick Data-based Decision in the US? – Don’t Hold Your Breath

What's the difference between the UK and the US when it comes to using data to inform a business decision?

By James Nunns

Alteryx, a self-service data analytics software company, conducted an independent study with Opinion Matters that compares the habits of senior business executives in the UK and US when it comes to collecting information in order to make knowledgeable business decision.

You may be surprised to hear that it’s still taking over a week on average to fulfil a single data request! Here I will break down some of the key differences between the


Chiara Pensato, EMEA director, Alteryx Inc

British respondents and our American cousins.

Our survey sample covered a variety of executives in firms that range from less than 50, 50 to 249, 250 to 499, 500 to 999, and 1000+ employees. They all had roles as either middle management/ professional, senior management/ professional, director, or were the business owner.

The range of respondents covered were in the following sectors: professional services; arts and culture, legal, HR, IT & telecoms, finance; sales, media and marketing, retail, catering and leisure; healthcare; manufacturing and utilities, architecture, engineering and building, travel and transport, and finally – education.


It takes you how long to make up your mind?!

There were some interesting findings about just how long executives at different levels tend to take to be able to make a strategic data-backed business decision. We asked our respondents to tell us about making decisions in workforce management, forecasting and planning, optimisation, financial, and finally for marketing and sales decisions.

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Across the UK and US overall, the whole process of making a decision, from requesting business information to the moment of decision, took just over 12 days. The whole UK decision-making process tended to run a little longer, taking just over 14 days. In the US they appear to be faster, taking on average just over 10 days for this data-backed process to result in a decision.

Digging deeper into the survey findings, some interesting little nuggets stood out across the various types of decisions and those making them.

Oddly, UK directors tend to take the least amount of time in making decisions in the area of workforce management: That whole process (again, from requesting information to making that decision) took an average of seven days, whilst US directors tended to take the most time in this area, on average taking 13 days from start to finish.

In the US, as one might expect, they are no slouches when it comes to getting on with the process behind marketing and sales decisions, taking an average of 11 days – but in the UK, taking an average of 14 days.

When it comes to financial decisions, the process takes a transatlantic average of 12 days, which was one of the few stats to be identical in both the UK and US, although it did tend to vary depending on the size of the company.

So overall, it generally takes upward of ten days to both find the information and then answer business questions. The UK and US vary in industry and size in how long this takes, but they range around 8-15 days. Following this, we dove into what elements of data gathering they would like to improve.

The right information drives the right decisions, but accessing, integrating and making sense of all the disparate data can be challenging. It may be that many businesses are relying on multiple tools and resources to get the information they need. So it’s time-consuming, expensive, complicated and can delay the decision making process – as has clearly been found given the timescales in the decision making processes. It may (as later answers suggest) be that even with access to business information, decisions still need to be checked and further feedback sought before some executives feel that they can be trusted.


How should the business improve decision making?

39.5% of business decision makers said the speed of access to information is a top factor they’d like to improve for better business decision making in their company. Nearly a quarter (24%) said using more data-backed information in decision making is a top factor they’d like to improve.

When it comes to accuracy, 27% (a varied 22% in the UK and 32% in the US) said a reduction in errors in the delivered insights will be key to a more successful data regime. And almost a third (31%, made up of 22% in the UK, 40% in the US) of decision makers said that access to information is what they need to improve for better business decision making.

It’s clear that there are better ways of dealing with information that can lift a business from a second-class data user to a first place information leader.


The Alteryx take

I would love to conclude that the UK is clearly far ahead of the US when it comes to gathering information, but the reality from this research shows that the two countries are taking very different approaches to making data-based decisions.

Generally it would seem that the UK is quicker to obtain the data but the US is quicker to act upon these insights. Perhaps, this says something about the data gathering techniques used but more likely it simply the mentality of different organisations.

However, what is clear is that business data can provide a goldmine of insights waiting to be discovered, buried in data warehouses, spreadsheets or locked in the heads of colleagues. In a competitive landscape these insights are the route to advantages over rivals.

About the research

The research was conducted by Opinion Matters, with 504 business decision makers in the UK and the US between 08 February 2017 – 10 February 2017. Opinion Matters abides by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.

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