The game is afoot: how digital is changing decision-making

Will digital technologies democratise organisational decision-making? We asked 11 business leaders for their view.


Will tomorrow’s business be automated, digitised or human? Will digital democratise decision-making? And what consequences will that have on the advisory services you need from your bank? We asked 11 business leaders for their view…

One school of thought: recent advances in robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning make it possible to automate almost all routine, repetitive and predictable work. Many jobs are, on some level, routine, repetitive and predictable. QED: a largely digital workforce is the future.

Or maybe not, because no one can accurately forecast the new jobs technology will create, and no one can accurately forecast the new skills companies will value. What will your business look like tomorrow: automated, digitised, human?

This is the scenario we put to 11 business leaders from media to manufacturing, IT consulting to high-end fashion. Over two virtual roundtables and three hours of conversation, two “certainties” emerged. First, that tomorrow’s business model will be a mix of all three: automate for efficiency, digitise for scale and support, and maximise human interaction around creativity, and valuable customer experience. Second, that businesses are being transformed, and informed decision-making will drive success. And that is where the conversation got very interesting indeed…

Democratised decision making

The commoditisation of data means more information is available to more levels of the enterprise. Should this be used to democratise your decision-making? Joachim Hensch is managing director at Hugo Boss Textile Industries, he says yes: “We have no more time for all these different hierarchy levels to make a decision, do we go for a blue jacket or a black jacket? It’s a financial risk if we wait too long and then we’re late in the market.”

It’s business 101 – if your competition is quick, you need to be quicker – updated for the digital age, and Walt Disney’s director of technology and operations, Denise White agrees: “We do need to understand how can we make information more transparent, more accessible. It leads to us being faster. And there’s no other way we can do that unless more of us have the information available.”

The business and the bank of tomorrow

So the question becomes “how”? Fujitsu Technology Solutions’ chief technology officer for large accounts EMEIA, Pascal Huijbers, says “the answer is ecosystems”. For decision-making to be not only democratised and efficient, but effective, companies, their departments and their partners, must work more collaboratively. Something ING is already doing in wholesale banking, says Ivar Wiersma, head of innovation for Wholesale Banking, where “there is much more of a trend towards collaboration. We are operating in ecosystems, and I think there will be more multi-bank initiatives.”

The bank of tomorrow pushes itself into a more consultative role.

The rising tide of digital and data means the relationship between business and bank is changing. Wiersma says that today: “You need to be where your clients have questions about how to operate, how to manage their balance sheet, how to manage their working capital, how to manage their P&L and their risk management, and enable them to make better decisions.”

What consequences will that have on the advisory services a business needs from its bank? One excellent example came from Siegfried Loeffler, director of program operations with media and entertainment tech giant, Technicolor. Businesses today aspire to be lean and agile.

The bank as speedboat

“Today, our researchers are asked to build business cases, to come up with pitches and become entrepreneurs and act like startups inside a bigger company,” says Loeffler. “But the financial knowhow to build those business cases has completely shifted away. So there’s a huge learning taking place in that space. And it would be great if banks could get involved in that type of project definition. If we could have somebody with a financial background to help the research people build a business case, ask them questions, and teach them a bit more what that is.” The age of the bank as supertanker is over; the fleet of speedboats is just begun.

Richard Copland, innovation and emerging tech director with CGI, agrees. The bank of tomorrow, he says, “pushes itself into an advisory, more consultative role with higher value skillsets, where the insight in terms of the data that you have available is used in conjunction with your customer.”

The good news is that, on our roundtables at least, business was preaching to the converted because ING is thinking the same, says Wiersma. “Understanding clients, the tasks they need to perform and their actual needs is very important,” he notes, explaining that ING can help clients’ to evaluate the challenges they face and build solid business cases for change. “We also work together with young start-ups to help them develop a board, connect to larger clients, and prepare for pitching to larger clients.”

Watch our short videos for more from this roundtable discussion. The digital business model 1: data and the democratisation of decision making, and The digital business model 2: a new relationship between banks and business.