The very idea of using software to assist decision-making often prompts a negative, knee-jerk reaction. Surely decision-making is a creative endeavor requiring judgement and insight? How can we replace experienced leaders with technology?
First, it is important to recognize that assisting decision-makers does not equate to replacing them. Have you closed your finance department since you purchased Excel? No? I thought not.
Software can aid decision-makers (primarily) by:
- managing data
- providing structure
- encoding best practices
Managing data is the most obvious benefit that software can provide. Data analysis tools can summarize large volumes of data, allowing decision-makers to separate the wood from the trees. However, software can also assist decision-makers by managing their assumptions. We’ve all had the experience of constantly revisiting the same issues when involved in making complex decisions. If we use software to model each stage of the process, we can return to previously considered issues without having to recreate everything for the umpteenth time.
The provision of structure is something that is often overlooked. Without a formal decision-making model, it’s too easy to avoid facing important facts. Models ensure that we don’t get caught up in the excitement of a major decision and become blind to inconvenient data that doesn’t support the “sexy” option. Models don’t have to be encapsulated in software, but doing so helps promote disciplined behavior—you can’t “hand-wave” at a computer program.
Finally, good decision-aiding software supports the spread of best practices throughout your organization. Many powerful decision-making techniques take time to learn—and we all know that time is becoming increasingly precious. Decision-aiding software can guide decision-makers through the mechanics of a process, providing all decision-makers with access to the latest decision science techniques.
So, the next time you have to make a decision, consider letting software onto the team. It’s there to help…