Data-driven Decisions

Imagine your team wants to purchase new training software. You’ve investigated the market for options, you’ve gathered data on factors like pricing, features, technical support, and security. You’ve created reports on the strengths and weaknesses of different options. Still, no one software seems to stand above the rest. Instead, all the choices have different positive and negative factors. The cheapest training software is missing some key features, and the most secure and reliable pushes your budget’s limits. Deciding which software to acquire isn’t a matter of gathering more data - you’re already looking at that data. What you need now is a process for turning data into data-driven decisions. The truth is that decisions happen in our minds, not on spreadsheets or in charts. And we should be honest with ourselves - humans just aren’t that great at making objective, data-driven decisions. We’re geared to make quick, impulsive decisions based on a subjective assessment of our immediate situation. That's useful for a hunter-gatherer, but not so useful for long-term business strategy. The good news is that we can overcome that impulse. Tools like training management systems can help Training teams move beyond assessments of our immediate situation into comprehensive understanding of the business environment. And a decision matrix is a powerful tool to increase objectivity and clearly assess our priorities.

What is a Decision Matrix?

A decision matrix, also called grid analysis, is a table that assesses multiple options according to multiple criteria. Every criterion is given a weight on a standardized scale, and every option is ranked according to how well it satisfies that criteria. The weights for each criterion are multiplied by the score each option gets for satisfying that criteria. By multiplying the weights for each criterion. by the ranking each option gets for satisfying those criteria, and adding up the total for each option, a decision matrix produces a simple numerical value for each option. The option with the highest value should theoretically be the best. A decision matrix is an effective tool to force us to be objective about our priorities. For example, you might go into the decision-making process knowing that budget is the primary constraint you face. But how much more important is budget relative to other factors? If you are buying a new training management system, and budget is a 5 out of 5 for priority, is a factor like reliability a 4 out of 5? Or is it more of a 2 out of 5? That could make the difference when assessing whether you are willing to pay more for a more reliable option. It’s important to be honest about priorities when establishing weights. Lots of factors may be high-priority. However, if all factors have the maximum weight assigned, the usefulness of the matrix is reduced. Grid analysis requires us to think objectively about decisions as we assign weights to our priorities. Once we have our priorities straight, we can turn to the data to populate the rest of the table. The result is a data-driven view of how different options satisfy our criteria.

How Can A Decision Matrix Inform Training Management?

Grid analysis is much more common in the worlds of Engineering and Product than in Training. But we firmly believe that Training is capable of data-driven operational excellence in the same way as these other departments. All that's needed are the right tools and adopts the right mindset, especially towards decision-making. There’s no shortage of ways that training management could benefit from implementing decision matrices. For example, a common decision for Training teams is purchasing pre-made courses and content from third-party vendors. Assessing vendors and content on a decision matrix can ensure that purchases align with the team's needs. As mentioned earlier, decisions about purchasing training software are also well-suited to using grid analysis. Learning analytics can also be a potent resource for populating decision matrices. If you have an effective training management system with a strong reporting engine, then gathering data and assessing metrics like instructor effectiveness, learner satisfaction, and course completion rates should be easy. A decision matrix can then convert those metrics into meaningful guidance. Training teams are no stranger to this kind of multiple-criteria decision. Training management, however, has fallen behind when it comes to supporting those decisions with data. Implementing more formal decision-making processes, like grid analysis, can be a good first step.

Data-Driven Decision Making With and Beyond Grid Analysis

Making use of decision matrixes to guide training management is a great starting point. But there are some things to keep in mind as you start down this data-driven path:
  • Grid analysis is a guide, not a rule. If your gut feeling is that the matrix isn't giving you the right answer, your priorities may not be aligned with the weights you assigned. That can be an opportunity for you to examine and assess your own priorities even more closely.
  • A decision matrix’s results are only as meaningful as the data that they are populated with. They need to be supported by a robust data architecture and comprehensive analysis so that options can be objectively evaluated against the criteria. In Training's case, that means having a powerful training management system to guarantee access to data. All the formalized data-driven decision-making in the world is useless if it isn’t being fed good data.
  • There are many formal decision-making techniques. Decision matrices only work when multiple options need to be assessed against multiple criteria. You should investigate other formal processes once you're comfortable using grid analysis.
Making the shift to a data-driven style of training management is not trivial. But it is achievable, with some effort and attention to how your team makes decisions. Using grid analysis to guide training strategy is only one step of the process. At Administrate, we’re committed to helping Training teams improve their use of data and implement business intelligence. That’s why we created a milestones chart as part of this Business Intelligence Guide. It can give you a clearer picture of where your business is now and what steps you can take to improve your use of training data.
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