Faced with unprecedented global disruption, organizations are hungry for reliable insights to guide them through the global COVID-19 pandemic
In times of crisis, organizations often need to make tough decisions fast. That’s particularly true in the era of COVID-19, and our research shows that data and analytics is playing a central role in business decision-making as executives steer their organizations through the unfolding pandemic.
We surveyed 59 data and analytics leaders in North America and across the globe to discover how recent events are affecting their work, and our findings show that demand for data and analytics is soaring.
“Our teams have been working around the clock and face new challenges every day,” says Tim Carey, Director of Data and Performance Analytics at skilled nursing facility operator Bane Care Management. “Our strategy is, as always, to do whatever needs to be done to provide the best care to our beloved residents.”
“The ability to turn [data] quickly into a story for army senior leaders to make decisions from is something that we need to be able to do”– Lori Mongold, Division Chief, Strategic Operations Enterprise, US Army
As you might expect, the vast majority of businesses have been disrupted by COVID-19 and the measures being taken to limit its spread. Almost 80% of our survey respondents say their businesses have been disrupted, with 47.5% describing that disruption as ‘major’.
However, this disruption correlates with a substantial increase in demand for data and analytics. Three quarters of our survey respondents say the pandemic has caused demand for their services to increase within their organizations, with 47.5% describing that increase as ‘major’.
Faced with a plethora of new challenges and a constantly shifting business environment, companies are turning to their data and analytics teams for the business intelligence and creative ideas they need to remain viable and futureproof their businesses.
COVID-19 is Creating New Challenges for Data Leaders
When COVID-19 first began to spread across world, businesses had to transition to remote working practices fast.
But while this may have been a huge undertaking for some, our research shows that most have taken this transformation in their stride. In fact, around two thirds of our survey respondents say it’s one of the least challenging ways the pandemic has affected their organizations.
On the other hand, they are finding it more difficult to manage cashflows, safeguard staff health, deliver products and services and retain existing business in the present environment.
“Data is extremely critical in a time like [this],” notes Lori Mongold, the US Army’s Division Chief, Strategic Operations Enterprise. “The ability to turn [data] quickly into a story for army senior leaders to make decisions from is something that we need to be able to do.”
A full 63.8% of respondents say securing new business is a ‘top three’ challenge for them at present, while 32.2% say the same about their ability to deliver products and services. Meanwhile, 45.8% of survey respondents say cashflow management is one of their organizations’ three greatest challenges.
While just 33.9% of respondents put ensuring staff wellbeing in their top three challenges, 55.9% included it in their top fours. This implies that many are thinking about how best to support their staff as the realities of long-term social distancing begin to take a mental and physical toll on their health.
“Focus on employees and their wellbeing,” recommends Joe Vellaiparambil, CDAO at insurance company AXA Equitable. “You need a motivated and engaged workforce to face the challenges of the current environment.”
How Data is Helping Companies Respond to COVID-19
Data is proving to be a vital tool for guiding organizations through these uncertain times. Roughly three quarters of the data and analytics professionals we surveyed say they are providing company leadership with analytics and reports to aid their decision-making around COVID-19.
Meanwhile, 49.2% are identifying trusted COVID-19 data sources, 49.2% are accelerating digitization projects and 45.8% are helping their organizations to find potential opportunities to generate rapid cost savings.
“We have improved operational efficiencies so that we can improve the response time for managing our clients’ requests and expeditiously reduce completion times,” says Karen Fleshman, Co-Founder and COO at consulting firm Haskins Advisory Group.
“Our teams have been working around the clock and face new challenges every day”– Tim Carey, Director of Data and Performance Analytics, Bane Care Management
“The number one question that our customers are asking is, ‘What is the impact on my transportation network?’,” adds Joe Easley, Qlik Administrator at Odyssey Logistics. “Our number one priority most recently has been to leverage all of our internal, as well as some external, data to help answer that question.”
At the same time, 40.7% of respondents are creating hubs for COVID-19 reporting and analytics, 37.3% are helping to communicate the pandemic’s impact to the wider business and 17% are setting up dedicated COVID-19 help desks.
As a result, just 27.1% of survey respondents say the recent events have made them more pessimistic about the outlook for their organizations. In fact, 32.2% say they feel optimistic about it.
As Larry Shiller, CDO at children’s charity Rising Stars Foundation, says, many organizations may emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever thanks to the work their data and analytics teams are doing right now.
“There is nothing like a crisis to force an organization to better define and focus on its purpose,” he concludes. “We pressed pause and looked at the big picture and lots of data. We will be leaner and stronger for it.”