A survey of UK and EMEA C-level business decision-makers, which reveals that while the speed that decisions need to be made is faster than ever, businesses are not able to be as agile as desired because appropriate data isn’t immediately available.

The survey of 200 UK C-level public and private sector decision-makers (part of a sample of 1,400 EMEA respondents) reports that 43 per cent have lost revenues and 39 per cent have lost customers as a result of taking too long to make strategic decisions. Other impacts cited in the study include being seen as losing ground to competitors (32 per cent), being seen as ‘late to the game’ (31 per cent) and losing existing customers (24 per cent).

In an always-on, increasingly competitive and hostile business environment, senior business decision-makers have to make strategic decisions faster than ever. According to the survey, conducted by independent research company Vanson Bourne, almost two thirds (60 per cent) of senior decision-makers surveyed said they need to make decisions faster than they did a year ago and 81 per cent said decisions today need to be swifter than five years ago.

The pressure to make fast decisions in a competitive environment is however, leading to a contradiction amongst the UK’s C-level in relation to the importance placed on using data in strategic decision making processes. While nearly three quarters (74 per cent) of survey respondents said that data is vital to decision making and more important than instinct, they also suggest that their organisation’s executive team does not always consult data when making decisions (62 per cent).

This discrepancy is, according to the research, due to the quality of data and speed of retrieval rather than the amount of data available. When asked why their executive teams do not consult data for strategic decisions, just 19 per cent felt that they did not have enough data to consult, while almost half of respondents (48 per cent) said that getting appropriate data was too slow. Other causes highlighted included the difficulty in accessing data (38 per cent), and the appropriateness of available data (35 per cent).

“At a time when UK businesses are under greater economic and competitive pressures than ever before, UK business leaders recognise that they are at risk of making ill-informed decisions based on inappropriate data that takes too long to access. The results show that timely access to appropriate data holds the key to faster and better strategic decision making and point to the need for more agile, easy-to-access data infrastructures,” said Dave Allen, Area VP UK & Ireland, at NetApp.

Organisations are recognising the need to adopt new technologies and infrastructures in order to help board-level executives make decisions more quickly and improve market competitiveness. Currently, only 44 per cent of executive respondents feel that the IT infrastructure always supports their decision-making needs. The majority do not agree: 39 per cent said that it usually supports them, 14 per cent said occasionally, 3 per cent said rarely and 2 per cent said it never supports them in decision making.

The survey also shows however, that updates are in progress, with 97 per cent of respondents reporting that their organisations either have or plan to adopt new technologies in order to help them make decisions more quickly. Where these new systems are already in place, 81 per cent of executives report significant or very significant time savings when accessing data and 78% suggest that better access has derived significantly or very significantly more instances of informed decision-making.

When looking to how respondents get hold of data for decision making, nearly half (45 per cent) of those surveyed in the UK access the data directly versus just 29 per cent in the other European markets covered by the study, while the remainder rely on subordinates and other members of the organisation to compile data for them.

This means that the data being used to make decisions by the C-level in the UK should be more relevant and accurate than that used by its European peers. While this should be seen as a positive for the UK, it still means that the majority of senior business decision-makers are not seeing a complete, instant view of their data when needed.