New Harvard Research Shows Japanese Enterprises Must Empower the Frontlines

Organizations must better leverage their data in order to succeed in today’s business world. That refrain has been heard for the better part of the last two decades. And for good reason. 

Businesses in every sector, in every industry, and in every geography have unprecedented opportunities to drive new revenue, reduce costs, deliver new products and services, and ensure better customer experiences with data. 

Why then, have so many failed to truly realize the benefits of their data? ThoughtSpot has teamed up with Harvard Business Review Analytics Services to launch new research delving into the critical role employees at the frontline play in turning data into real business value. Nearly 90% of organizations surveyed for the research drew a clear connection between arming frontline employees with the ability to make data-driven decisions and success. The problems come because, too often, organizations fail to equip these employees with the tools they need to find their own insights, empower them with the knowledge to apply these insights, or create a culture and organizational structure in which they can act on these insights. 

This is particularly relevant for the Japanese market and businesses. Across industries, Japanese enterprises face a productivity crisis. In fact, the Japanese labor market’s productivity is the lowest among the G7 members in 2018. Faced with both a declining and aging population, it’s critical Japanese businesses unlock new means to power productivity to thrive in the years ahead. This will require fundamentally new approaches that create dramatic growth in productivity, not incremental increases. 

As the research from Harvard Business Review demonstrates, equipping the frontlines with the ability to make data driven decisions autonomously and in the moment can deliver these results. Roughly half of organizations leading this transformation expect to see significant increases in customer satisfaction, employee engagement and productivity, and increased product and service quality as a result of empowering employees. 

Achieving these results is not simple. The research shows organizations must overcome real hurdles in order to realize these benefits around organizational structure, technical debt, and company culture. The last one may be the most challenging to overcome for enterprises, both in Japan and abroad. Investing in new technology to arm employees with data-driven insights is only the first step. Businesses must shift their culture in parallel so employees not only have the ability to unearth data-driven insights, but can act on them to drive decisions on the frontlines. 

It’s worth making this shift however. Companies like AIG Japan are already delivering real results by pairing new technology with a data-driven culture. A key to AIG Japan’s success has been using data influencers - people who are deeply passionate about data - to serve as champions throughout the business. After going through a training camp with the analytics group, these people go out into the business to run operations or work on the frontline where they can influence others in their peer group and shape the company’s culture.

Whether you’re a business leader looking to transform your organization or an employee on the frontline who wants to contribute more to your company’s success, I encourage you to read the full Harvard Business Review report today. It will take a concerted effort from businesses, employees, and technology providers to truly transform the frontlines, but I’m confident that we can do it together.