Research from Nottingham based digital workflow leader Intoware, found that 73% of industrial businesses post-pandemic, are relying on legacy systems and spreadsheets to get tasks done, believing this inflexible, often out-of-date, disconnected data is sufficient to support corporate decision making.
This independent survey of 1,030 UK based industrial firms from the manufacturing, oil and gas, civil engineering, utilities and transport and logistics industries showed that the vast majority, 82% claimed to be data-informed and 74% said that they trust data enough to complete tasks, this is despite the majority relying on disparate legacy systems.
Intoware’s CEO, Keith Tilley, said: “The survey shows that most industrial businesses believe they are data-informed, when in reality they could be relying on old, out-of-date data. This disconnected data acts like a ball and chain, tying down staff as they spend a huge amount of time trying to unlock data trapped in spreadsheets and legacy systems to meet the demands of businesses, customers and regulators.
This research shows that almost three quarters, 74% of senior decision makers have access to data and the large majority 80%, believe that data is an asset, which is very good news. However, just under half of those surveyed, 47% use data only occasionally to help get the job done – as the reality is that their data is siloed.
While over half of those surveyed, 65% are interested in using digital software ‘tools’ to support their role, it seems that a significant minority simply don’t have the skills to use the new data these systems provide, with 21% feeling overwhelmed and another 24% feel only slightly confident when using data to back decision making, that is almost half, 45% of those surveyed. 
Despite this, when it comes to passing on critical skills and expertise from ageing workers to help plug the skills ‘gap’ for the next generation, 70% see digital ‘tools’ as playing a valuable part in sharing knowledge. So, it’s no surprise that over half of companies, 59% intend to invest in data skills, training and development in 2022 to help meet this challenge.
While it seems that a culture of un-informed decision making still persists for many, with just over a third, 35% having made decisions based on ‘gut-feel’, with 24% doing this quickly without data on a monthly basis and a worrying 13% each week. This was particularly prevalent in the oil and gas sector, where un-informed decisions are relied on by as many as 40% of those surveyed.
This culture goes right to the very top of businesses, with around a third, 28% senior decision makers and 27% of managers relying on ‘gut-feel’ all the time. This can have serious implications, such as when managers need to introduce engineering changes without assessing the impact on current works or raw materials for example – which are all factors that are detrimental to business performance.
Intoware’s CEO, Keith Tilley, said: “A reliance on siloed data severely hinders business operations with accountability and visibility issues, as each department has their own interpretation of data, which is a problem for businesses that are increasingly under pressure to evolve how they manage resources and communicate data insights. 
“If you digitise paper-processes with work-instruction ‘tools’ that integrate with connected smart devices and third-party systems, this information can be more easily shared, providing staff with access to quality data and a ‘single source of truth’, for more proactive and rapid ‘real-time’ insights to improve productivity and compliance.”
As businesses persist in the belief that they are data-driven by relying on spreadsheets, legacy systems and ‘gut-feel’, it will negatively impact on their efforts to be more competitive as staff spend time gathering and cleaning data just to respond to requests, which means they risk not focusing on the insights that will really add value and future growth.
This research survey was conducted by Surveygoo with 1,030 industrial businesses including senior decision makers, managers, supervisors, frontline, admin and IT professionals, between the 28th February and the 3rd March 2022.

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