A study conducted by DXC Research found that most organisations struggle to make the time-critical decisions necessary to play in today’s volatile markets. Our findings, surfaced during our research for the report Next Generation Operating Models (Leading Edge Forum, February 25, 2021), suggest that two conditions must be met in order to optimise decision making. First, decision making on behalf of the organisation must be understood to take place within the three states of Discover, Develop and Defend. Second, data and insights must flow through the organisation in a focused and timely manner that supports these three states. In combination, we call this “data metabolism.”

Data metabolism consists of the ability to serve up relevant data and insights at the right time and speed to the right people, and, crucially, to optimise decision making. Data management and decision making are inextricably intertwined but are often considered separately, or not at all. They can, however, be realigned to enable optimal performance by enterprises, teams and individuals, as you will read in this paper.

Executive Summary

In this paper, DXC Research:

Surfaces the crisis in decision making:

  • Our research reveals organisations are experiencing a crisis in decision making exacerbated by an inability to metabolise data — to serve up the right data and insights at the right time and speed to their constituent groups.
  • Organisations with failing data metabolism and overly democratised data, analytics and other information assets are encouraging the people who are invested in protracting or preventing decision making.
  • A 2021 Economist Impact survey found that six in 10 executive respondents (61%) reported having to cancel a digital project for lack of the right data.
  • Business structures and processes are typically — and erroneously — based upon the rule that capital increases in value over time. But information loses value over time, which means existing management and control structures for balancing risks and rewards no longer work correctly.
  • A combination of social media, mobility and analytics has led customers, partners and employees to become what we call “appified” and to expect instant gratification at nearly no cost.
  • Few organisations can make decisions and act on data at the speed that appified people demand. If your organisation cannot roll out thousands of new products every week in a cycle time of less than a week from design to production, you are falling behind. 
  • Organisational paralysis in decision making is fed by the assumption that more data is better, which perpetuates the problem. Future investments in data, analytics and information management tools not only fail to generate positive returns but also cause further dysfunction.

Explains how to fine-tune data metabolism:

  • The taxonomy of Discover, Develop and Defend (the three D’s) describes the primary states and outcomes of business activity, enabling focused data usage and a gameplay for optimal decision making.
  • The value of data changes differently along the life cycle of each of the three states, and decisions can be optimised by accruing or disposal of data as it values and devalues.
  • Many organisations do not recognise the sunk costs associated with Defend duties. In large organisations, it’s not unusual to see a substantial proportion of the workforce dedicated to Defend processes.
  • Data metabolism can be optimised through careful interventions that balance both decision making and data engineering, as summarised in Figure 1. These interventions have been designed based on our learning through the research conducted.
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Learn more about how to serve up relevant data and insights at the right time and speed to the right people, and to optimise decision making.

About the author

Mohammed “Khal” Khalid focuses on working with DXC Technology customers to make change happen in an increasingly digital world. As a business leader, Khal is experienced in helping CXOs and their organisations to exploit technology. As a humanist, he has a deep interest in how we learn and develop for success and how we overcome failure. And as an empath, Khal has strong coaching skills and is prepared to be open and vulnerable with colleagues and customers to help them achieve results. Connect with Khal on LinkedIn.


Christopher Surdak, Lachlan Stokes and Caitlin McDonald