This month, leading analytics platform Tableau partnered with YouGov to track how business conversations have changed since the pandemic. The findings reveal that in the face of such uncertainty, gaining the clearest view of data helps organisations keep their feet on the ground and continue along the path towards growth. Here, Gavin Jones, Tableau’s Country Manager – Australia and New Zealand, takes us through the key findings. 

 

At Tableau, we believe in not only the power of data, but also in how digging into that data as deeply as possible drives quality business conversations. To test that belief, we commissioned the Quality Conversations Survey, which questioned roughly 2,000 business leaders from multiple countries including Australia. 

Before we dig into the findings, it’s important to explain what we mean by “quality conversations”. A quality conversation is any discussion, usually during a period of change, that results in the making of meaningful decisions, the setting of business directions or the rallying of troops. In other words, it’s a conversation that moves an organisation forward. 

With that in mind, let’s get into the findings for Australia.

Pandemic brings positive and negative impacts to conversations

In order to discuss the impact of data on quality conversations, we need to contextualise how the very nature of business communications was upheaved by the pandemic. 

The physical separation of remote workers brought with it a series of foreign challenges, most due to the lack of real-world interactions. Sixty-one percent of Australian executives found that less of a window into non-verbal communications made it more difficult to read others, while just as many said that the lack of water-cooler (informal) discussions negatively impacted conversations. 

Sixty percent of that same group worried that a dip in information sharing between teams also affected quality conversations. 

At the same time, executives can see that recent shifts in the business landscape have also affected conversations positively. Seventy-two percent believe that remote work has helped their organisation prioritise higher-value meetings, 64% claim that meetings are more productive, and 60% claim that it’s now easier to have more people join conversations.


It’s clear that there are pros and cons to these recent shifts and that to some degree, the former is compensating for the latter. What’s particularly interesting is that amidst this recalibration, the vast majority of executives say data has become a critical part of decision making.
 
Quote from Greg Lambert, Business Intelligence Manager at Origin Energy from the Quality Conversations report.

Data emerges as a key driver for quality conversations

Since the pandemic hit, businesses of all sizes across Australia have shown great ingenuity in finding new avenues to productivity and growth.  

During the conduction of the survey, Tableau engaged Professor Donnel Briley of The University of Sydney Business School for an expert take on Australia’s efforts:

Overall, the shift to remote working has been less disruptive to local business discussion than in other countries because of its increased opportunities for inclusivity and levelled hierarchies – which are real traits of local leadership. On the other hand, opening up discussions to more participants means Australian business leaders are going to have to be more focused and structured. Data will increasingly play a role in helping achieve this.”

Briley’s words speak to how both data and analytics can bring a wider range and circumference of people onto the same page. When the physically separated are able to gain a clear and detailed view of the same data that can then be discussed and acted upon, both the quality of conversations and the effectiveness of decision-making increase. 

The stats support this reality. Eight-five percent of Australian executives said that analytics have reduced uncertainty about decision-making during the pandemic. Similarly, 54% of businesses who increased data use saw positive improvement in conversations.

Australian businesses, such as Origin Energy and Optus, identified the relationship between access to data and better decision making.

Quote from Paul Bayley, Associate Director, Demand Intelligence at Optus from the Quality Conversations report.

Leaders benefit from making data integral to their company culture

Confirming that the data-driven model helps businesses move forward is one thing, but determining how to best implement that model is another. A crucial inquiry of the survey was – what role do leaders play in successfully adopting data and analytics to drive quality conversations?

The answer is: a big role. It’s clear that establishing a data culture is far more likely to be successful if coming from the top. Australia saw 97% of executives personally using analytics solutions such as Tableau – and such usage corresponded to those same solutions being used across the whole business.  

Australian executives are embracing a data culture: 88% of Australian leaders say that data is pivotal in decision making, compared to 74% globally. Similarly, 90% of Australian leaders say that a single view of data amongst all meeting participants drives quality conversations, compared to 62% in Japan and 77% in Singapore. 

Australia leads an already forward-thinking Asia-Pacific and Japan region compared to the rest of the world when it comes to increasing data use since the pandemic to drive business conversations – with 54% of executives compared to the 43% global average.

Quality data analyses = quality conversations

The overriding message of the survey is that while the nature of quality conversations has changed since the pandemic, many of the gaps that have formed due to shifting work conditions can be compensated for by data and analytics. Furthermore, it isn’t data and analytics in and of themselves that drive quality conversations, but the ability to see, analyse and draw actionable insights from that information. 

To do this, leaders will need to display commitment to the use of data and analytics, shift their mindset and their employees’ mindset to view data through the same lens, and most importantly, empower teams with the data literacy skills to make informed decisions. Once processes and the right behaviours are in place, leaders will be able to establish the kind of data-driven culture that the future demands. 

Download the full copy of the Tableau and YouGov’s Quality Conversations: The pandemic’s impact on leadership discussions in APJ report.