Some 15 years ago, one of my first flying instructors (who suffered through an endless stream of bad relationships and terrible flatulence) gave me some concise and valuable tips that I’ve never forgotten; these tips helped me towards a complete view.  He described the five most important instruments required to fly safely – the five that any pilot needed to get into the habit of scanning at least every ten minutes. These are:

  • Compass or Direction finder
  • Altimeter
  • Airspeed
  • Artificial Horizon

And last, but arguably the most important of all, the windscreen!

That may seem obvious enough but with a lot of information coming from many sources and with plenty of instruments, dials and gauges to keep a careful watch over, it was actually sometimes difficult to remember to keep a careful lookout beyond the small cockpit.

I love analogies.

Guest speakers at conferences often relate inspiring sports stories to business situations but I’m hoping to draw a parallel between flying planes and business effectiveness. So bear with me….

Topic Flying Business
Speed The speed at which a pilot can process incoming information Managers and executives are being inundated more than ever with facts, data, workflows, documents, and are expected to assimilate all this important information, make the correct decisions, and to make them quickly.
Preparation When flying, it’s vital to do basic pre-flight checks such as fuel and oil levels as well as free movement of flight controls No pilot likes to be hit with a surprise up in the air, and likewise in business, managers and executives don’t like the unexpected. Often critical decisions about purchases, CAPEX leave, expenses etc. come as a surprise and require quick decisions with minimum supporting information.
Navigation A golden rule when navigating is always to know where you are and to reference your position on a map every 10 minutes. It’s infinitely more difficult to locate yourself once you’re lost. In business, isn’t it important to know where you are at all times so that important decisions can be made, knowing the relevant facts?For instance, wouldn’t it be useful to understand budget availability or project status before approving a purchase order assigned to a project?
Decisiveness In the  case of in-flight emergencies, quick and decisive decisions are imperative for survival To take advantage of opportunities or to respond to an ever-changing landscape, managers and executives often have very little time to make decisions. Take approval of sales discounts for example, a delayed approval translates to a delayed quotation submission which often results in a lost sale.
Communication Clear communication is imperative when you think about how many aircraft are sharing the same airspace As an approver, having to find and speak with the requestor of the task to better understand the full picture is often necessary but at the same time cumbersome and inefficient.In many cases “Human Glue” is required between a requestor and approver in order to understand all the facts, related data and associated documentation about the task at hand in order to make an effective decision.
Alertness Even small planes have many feedback systems, sensors and alarms to alert the pilot as early as possible that something is requires urgent attention or even going wrong such that appropriate action can be taken as quickly as possible Imagine the benefits associated with all your tasks and system alerts being delivered to your phone or browser wherever you are?How responsive would you be with instant alerts to allocated tasks and relevant system alerts?
Ergonomics Having a well laid-out cockpit with a clear view of all instruments, comfortable access to all flight controls and of course a full and clear windscreen reduces the workload on any pilot. Given the plethora of enterprise applications today, many managers need to access and navigate multiple systems and know how to follow various menu paths. Some applications even require users to actively search for tasks. What would the efficiency and effectivity gains be by consolidating all tasks into a single and very user-friendly list?
Consequences In aviation, the consequences of incorrect actions, delayed actions and unnoticed alerts are often fatal. Maverick spend, higher prices, delayed procurement, lost sales and missed hires are only some business consequences of poor and late approvals.


So, much like the intensity and speed of decision making when flying an aircraft, business managers today can benefit from the “windscreen view”. Many enterprise application vendors spruik mobile approval capability which is good but can this benefit be taken to the next level where all tasks from all business applications can be consolidated and actioned at the desk or via mobile device?

The benefits to be gained from simple and effective decision making are arguably massive based on 3 categories namely:

  • Reduction in the end-to-end business process cycle time eg cheaper flights if booked earlier or spares being delivered tomorrow as opposed to 3 days’ time.
  • Efficiency gains on the part of the managers and executives doing the approval. What cost savings can be realised by even saving the average executive 1 to 2 hours per month.
  • Risk reduction and improved governance and control for example reducing rash and poor decisions to purchases or eliminating abdication of approval actions by top executives.

Wikipedia suggests that Decision-making can be regarded as the cognitive process resulting in the selection of a belief or a course of action among several alternative possibilities. Every decision-making process produces a final choice that may or may not prompt action. Decision-making is the study of identifying and choosing alternatives based on the values and preferences of the decision maker. Decision-making is one of the central activities of management and is a huge part of any process of implementation.

In business, isn’t it incumbent upon executives and managers to make the right decisions and take prompt effective action? I would argue that to do this, efficient and effective task approval, based on relevant information at the decision-maker’s fingertips, can only be of benefit.

So, why then, are companies focusing only on process automation and not addressing the quick wins associated with effective task approval?

About the Author

Dave Cole has been in the IT and consulting services industry for 20 years having experienced the early days of SAP, Y2K, the explosion of the internet and the hype of mobility. Having delivered SAP-centric projects across the globe, his passion as Chief Commercial Officer at IQX Business Solutions for highly effective software and solutions is making its mark on industry. OneList Approvals is a key solution developed by IQX that embodies the value proposition of effective decision making and immediate decisive decision making.

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