The role of research for informed decision making
The impact of research, influence a wide variety of phenomena and trends in society over the long term. Such an impact, will be dependent on the specific project; therefore, like the research itself, the impact can be far-reaching and varied. Research impacts business, culture, economy, environment, society, health and wellbeing, policy, laws, technological developments, and generally every aspect of life. Continually, information and data generated by research are used to enhance products and services and develop policies and interventions by providing solutions for upgrading and streamlining business operations, aid and sustain policy-making by providing reliable background information; boost business operations, generate knowledge and skills, and support growth and development.
Over the years, it has been evident that research has an impact on business and on the economy at large. For a business to develop and grow, a well-developed business strategy must be in place. Developing a business strategy of this nature requires an understanding of the dynamics of the intended market. This can only be achieved through market and business research. Market research verifies the assumptions about a business – the right customers, partners, cost structures, revenue streams, channels, strategy (if the business is in the right direction), and among others, profitability. Through research, companies become aware of their customers’ preferences, lifestyle, needs and other issues relating to the company’s products and services. Since customers are the determinants of the success of a business, understanding their needs and improving their satisfaction will directly influence the bottom line. To this end, many businesses use market research to evaluate their performance, market share, products or services, and to stay ahead by avoiding possible risks.
Market research is the systematic and objective identification, collection, analysis, and dissemination of information to assist management in decision-making. It is used to provide accurate information that reflects the true state of affairs of businesses and organisations. With market research, businesses understand market demands, recognise business opportunities, design the perfect marketing campaign, improve products and services, minimise losses, and keep track of the competition. It allows them to identify and follow current trends and take advantage of the same by innovating to meet the demands and needs of their target audience.
Through the provision of relevant information, market research eliminates uncertainties and links the marketing variables with the environment and consumers. Marketing research provides information on controllable and uncontrollable factors and enhances the effectiveness of decisions made by marketing managers. Marketing decisions depend on research information and data to succeed and withstand competitions and other external pressures.
This key role of research on business has prompted more corporations to become proactive with funding research. Apart from providing information and data for their business strategy, companies may fund research as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or to promote their brands. Research funding can be considered a CSR which can lead to a positive public image for companies that have socially conscious investors or clients. Some investors, specifically those who take into consideration Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) issues, believe that a company that has strong CSR initiatives will deliver better returns in the long-term. In some countries, research funding fulfils the government’s CSR requirements. For instance, in India, the Companies Act requires companies falling within certain categories to spend at least 2 percent of their profits for CSR activities targeted at social development. Companies do not have to spend it on research funding, but it is an option for them.
Consequently, many companies have embraced CSR activities in the education sector through the building of institutions, creating centres of excellence for thought leadership and research. This way, meaningful and effective research is conducted, which serves both the industries and support policy development. This empowers the government to use the data and results from research to move from ideologically-driven policy-making to data-based policymaking. Research aids the production of quick, quality, and effective policies which are citizen-centric and sustainable.
Through research, governments can get insight into what the public wants, what the economy lacks, which sector needs immediate help or modifications amongst others. Therefore, it is critical that governments and policy-makers leverage on verified and analysed data for decision making. According to Peter Sandergaad, “Information is the oil of the 21st century and analytics is the combustion engine”. We can add that research is the mining of the oil; hence a thorough process of data collection and analysis must be employed for results that can be utilised for policy development. This highlights the importance and role of data gathering institutions and knowledge centres. Research-based/evidence-based policies have better success rates, acceptance and outcomes.
In a developing business environment like Nigeria, research is vital because of its multi-effect on businesses, economy, society and policies. For businesses, it aids informed decisions, improved business process, cost savings and to devise new business models, while policies are data-driven, acceptable, effective and sustainable. These combine to drive growth and development in the society and the economy which creates positive people, planet and profit. Making business decisions and policies that are not research-driven may work in the short-run, but without continuous efforts at assembling accurate information through research, and making decisions that are not based on research findings, failure may be inevitable in the long-term.
This article is written by Uchechukwu Anagboso for the Christopher Kolade Centre for Research in Leadership and Ethics (CKCRLE) at Lagos Business School (LBS). CKCRLE’s vision is creating and sharing knowledge that improves the way managers lead and live in Africa and the World. You can contact CKCRLE at firstname.lastname@example.org.