New Era Of Executive Meetings? How Intelligent Technologies Change Your Decision-Making Patterns

Almut-Christiane Riemer and Keywan Nadjmabadi

Intelligent technologies such as machine learning and predictive analytics have become more prevalent and are finding their way into leaders’ and board members’ daily activities. Behind the reporting screens of managers and decision-makers today are intelligent reporting tools and dashboards. Can we recognize beneficial real-life effects and influencing factors, especially in the field of decision-making, as they determine the leaders’ activities?

Case study: using an intelligent management dashboard

We have a unique view of our own experience working with an intelligent management dashboard. This case study investigates the new way of handling information using a dashboard and the impact on decision-making in a global organization.

Intelligent technologies do change working behavior and enhance the activities of management and the board. Focusing on essential content instead of spending time on excessive preparation and design tasks naturally leads to better-informed decisions in every company.

We carried out an internal SAP study in the course of a master’s thesis project. Our overall hypothesis was as follows: Using interactive, intelligent dashboards in board meetings or other occasions changes the concept of decision-making.

Our interview findings show that the intelligent solution positively impacts executives’ confidence level, supports personal skills, encourages discussions, and leverages the group dynamic. Doing so engenders a greater commitment from all team members in problem-solving. Mainly based on innovative functionalities such as predictive analytics, it is evident that executives can make better strategic decisions when working with a base of information that allows them to treat issues holistically. Access to real-time data with a single-source database is the foundation.

Figure: Evaluation of CFO answers related to research objective areas 1-3 from in-depth, semi-structured interviews

Results also show that analytical thought processes, decision-making, single-person and group behavior, and meeting efficiency are changing dramatically due to intelligent technologies, which impact the way we manage information today.

Furthermore, interview results express that users of the active dashboard generate better alternatives in the decision-making process based on the capability to combine and interlink information sourced by several applications and business areas. Plus, the amount of time spent on decision-making is reduced, along with reliance on static tools, as the intelligent dashboard supports problem-clarification tasks.

Figure: Evaluation of survey answers (selected) based on a questionnaire distributed to all active users of the intelligent tool inside the organization.

One might say that a 58% or 52% range is no great representative figure, but other factors influence the answers given: competitive behavior and fear of decreasing area of responsibility.

In 10 in-depth interviews, we asked SAP CFOs from different regions and hierarchical levels to provide answers to defined questions. In addition, we distributed an online questionnaire to all active users worldwide, about 350 recipients.

Why did we concentrate on decision-making using intelligent technologies? Digitalization, business transformation, and technologies – namely, machine learning and artificial intelligence – together define today’s management focus, as automated and innovative business processes disrupt previous work and behavior patterns of employees and organizations as a whole. What we experience today in executive boards and business meetings is quite different compared to a couple of years ago. A fast-paced business environment, agile information technology, and events in our global markets influence our meeting agendas on all organizational levels.

Hence, requirements for managers and especially board members as decision-makers change tremendously. Making sound decisions has never been simpler than today because the action plan is there to break through given processes and conditions.

Intelligent tools today combine integrated visualization, simulation, planning, and predictive capabilities, allowing the user to exercise various analyses and work hands-on with interactive figures in real time with a single source of truth. Today, what-if and how-to questions can be simulated and further evaluated using deep-dive analysis down to the single line item.

Key to adoption: change management and commitment

Looking back at the results, 63% of the CFOs and 52% of the survey respondents express that they improve their decision outcome when using such a tool. However, talking to numerous finance execs, it became clear that they consider themselves, as leaders of the company, the decision-makers responsible for better outcomes. This behavior makes sense; who wants to give part of their area of responsibility to a dashboard? No one, we guessed.

Two crucial elements can help overcome the competitive attitude towards the intelligent dashboard. First, change management and total commitment to usage needs to spread from the very top level of the company. Managers on a local or regional level will follow superiors and are less likely to fear any disadvantage when using the tool to support their work.

The research reveals not only improvements directly related to the intelligent tool, but also to organizational elements. At early stages of this research, Rouven Morato, SVP of Enterprise Analytics at SAP, highlighted the importance of change management in implementing the dashboard. Intangible factors such as commitment, assurance, timing, and empathy are crucial for the success of any new intelligent process.

What we learned from this study can help practitioners with:

1 Meeting effectiveness Steering meetings become more efficient, interactive, and dynamic, and create healthier atmospheres.
2 Information handling There is a 69% decrease in usage of static tools, such as MS Excel, MS PowerPoint, ERP, and business warehouse.

The tools support personal skills, confidence level, and 58% more analytical thought processes.

3 Decision-making phases and outcome Intelligent technologies inform better alternatives for decision-makers to consider.

Decision-making process is shortened and simplified as the information and story are conveyed more effectively.

Clearly, interactive, intelligent dashboards today can influence the way steering boards and employees work. Innovative technologies hold a lot of opportunities for us. However, knowing how to handle all change-related processes, and the people working with them, is the real key to success.

For more digital transformation strategies, see Turning People Strategies Into A Catalyst For Change.

Almut-Christiane Riemer

About Almut-Christiane Riemer

Almut-Christiane Riemer is Controlling Associate at SAP (Schweiz) AG. She started her career at SAP in 2017 as the PMO of the largest S/4HANA Conversion Project in Switzerland at that time. In cooperation with SAP she wrote her Master Thesis in the field of Financial Decision-Making and Business Intelligence. Almut holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the City University of Applied Sciences Bremen and a master’s degree in International Financial Management from the Institute of Financial Services Zug IFZ at the University of Applied Sciences Lucerne Switzerland.

Keywan Nadjmabadi

About Keywan Nadjmabadi

Keywan Nadjmabadi is Head of Business Transformation Services at SAP (Schweiz) AG. This includes responsibilities in enterprise architecture, transformation consulting, value management, business model innovation and design thinking. Keywan joined SAP in 2000 and holds a diploma in Business Administration and Business Informatics from the Georg-August-University of Göttingen (Germany).