As humans, we make important decisions regularly throughout our lives. From what subjects to pursue at school, to which career pathway to choose.

Similarly, we consider many different options before deciding on a car, house, holiday destination or even a life partner. On a micro level, smaller decisions like what to cook for dinner, which pair of shoes to buy or which Netflix series to watch infiltrate our lives every day.

With each of these occasions we rush our decisions at our peril. The basis of good decision making is collecting the facts, weighing up the risk factors, and deciding on the best course of action.

This is no different in business. We rely heavily on accurate and timely data to help inform our plans. Fundamentally, data driven decision making means working towards key business goals by taking advantage of verified, analysed data rather than merely shooting in the dark. And this is even more true during a crisis.

Leaders of businesses in private, public and third sectors need robust and trustworthy information to run their operation effectively, to make judicious changes and to focus energy and resource in the right areas.

Strong leaders will then share these data sets with their teams, in order to collect opinions and make informed decisions about the short and medium-term future. This transparency not only reassures the board that the necessary level of scrutiny has been undertaken, but also builds trust with the wider organisation and its stakeholders.

So, it is not surprising that we are beginning to pick up whispers of concern about the lack of visibility of data on which massive decisions are being made by governments right now. Not only does there appear to be a lack of clear and concise data, but what information does exist is not being made readily available to businesses.

Some of this is understandable, after all, this is a unique situation.

The “first of its kind” nature of this pandemic means that we have no previous evidence or data upon which to base decisions. Much of the information is being gathered on a week-to-week basis, making it extremely difficult to produce any kind of long-term strategy position.

But where this is causing perhaps the biggest angst to business leaders is the resulting misalignment of the four nations’ response to the crisis.

There is some logic in the timing differences between nations, but it would, nonetheless, be very useful to see the raw data on which these “when” decisions are being made.

But why would there be differences in the “how”? On what evidence should visiting a shop, working on a construction site or sitting in an office vary depending on whether you live north or south of the border?

Transparency of the research and figures would give business leaders, their teams, stakeholders and the general public reassurance that these decisions are well-informed during this critical phase, and go some way to restarting the economy and returning to some kind of normal.

We appreciate that this is an ever-changing situation, but we also know that businesses simply must have the opportunity to begin operating at some capacity again. Of course, doing this safely is the top priority, but it’s near impossible to create an exit, or re-entry, plan without having those all-important facts. Clarity from Government is necessary on timescales, social distance requirements and provision of PPE, as well as many other necessary measures.

During the last few months, businesses have been forced to make decisions which could be the difference between going under during this pandemic, or coming out the other side. Some of these have necessarily been gut decisions based on minimal data. Providing as much data and transparency around future plans is vital for leaders to plan next steps, and keep the economy going.

Malcolm Cannon is the national director of the Institute of Directors Scotland