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Covid-19: How data will emerge from the outbreak with a new legacy

(Image credit: Image Credit: Billion Photos / Shutterstock)

While most organisations have become accustomed to using data to drive business success, not many will have considered its critical role in unexpected events such as the Covid-19 outbreak. There are convincing business cases for using business intelligence platforms under normal operating conditions. But now, in the midst of the Covid-19, access to flexible real-time data might impact your company’s long-term sustainability and profitability.

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown just how necessary a clear understanding of data and modelling is to help prevent the spread of disease. The ability to compare accurate datasets from different places is critical to understanding outbreaks, and be able to monitor and compare the number of people infected. Through various technologies and visualisation tools, government and world leaders are able to better predict issues in the economy and act proactively rather than reactively. For example, the state of Utah, Ohio and Nebraska are leveraging Domo’s newly-built crisis command centre and apps to gather critical, real-time data on the Covid crisis and take immediate action to shorten the path to recovery.

The need for critical data is also true for businesses. We’ve seen Domo customers harnessing their business data to respond quickly to the changing environment. For example, supermarkets, like Harmons are utilising business intelligence tools and data visualisation to manage supplier shortages and keep high-demand grocery items on the shelves for their customers.

With the socio-economic fallout from the pandemic set to continue for the foreseeable future, data is the only resource that can accurately predict and determine real-world scenarios. Business leaders are looking for a source of truth, mobilising personalised data tools that are better suited to their needs as they assess what business means for them both during and after the pandemic.

The crisis has been a lesson in staying ahead of the curve, and has emphasised the need for data analytics and other digital tools that strengthen business resilience, customer relationships, technology systems and operations. Data can act as a powerful tool to combat the crisis; it can enable faster, more informed decisions and unite employees. However, many businesses are encountering major challenges that hinder their ability to leverage data to its full potential:

Challenges during the crisis:

  • Lack of data culture

While having access to data is critical, data on its own is ineffective. Without a strong data culture that encourages data use among employees, it is very difficult to develop an effective response plan that can keep up with the rapidly-evolving crisis. Using visualisation tools and data dashboards nurtures collaboration, and empowers everyone with the ability to make data-informed decisions. For years at Domo, we’ve witnessed organisations struggle with delivering digital transformation efforts, as there is no strong community where people feel comfortable to share ideas that are informed by data insight.

  • Siloed and fragmented data

Many businesses still use outdated methods like offline Excel spreadsheets and manual consolidation methods to bring data across the enterprise together. In times of crisis, this type of siloed data collation cannot keep up. Data fragmentation prevents those at all levels of the business from identifying key issues, as there is no holistic view. What’s more, is it prevents businesses from being able to make on-the-fly changes to areas that are underperforming. By providing an integrated and live view of the entire business, leaders can determine next steps around how to conduct their operations and mobilise their teams.

  • Irrelevant non-timely data

Those who rely on monthly reports from legacy business intelligence systems are finding these insufficient in tracking real-time changes in business operations and customer behaviours. For example, panic shopping during the initial phase of the pandemic created shortages for many supermarket chains. Yet these spikes in demand were not always depicted in the business data as it relied on manual processing and waiting for a monthly report. 

  • Predicting for the future

Right now, the C-suite is preoccupied with what Covid-19 means for them and their company. It is expected that the impact to the economy will be catastrophic and many business leaders are looking for new innovative approaches to help function in the ‘next normal’. Those who are used to only analysing past data will find it difficult to answer these questions. Using predictive analytics and forecasting will help guide and determine how to create an effective long-term plan.

  • Data’s new legacy

We are facing a new level of uncertainty that most have never had to deal with. Crises such as the Spanish flu pandemic or Black Death were at a time when the world was more fragmented and they did not have access to something so valuable that we have today - an abundance of data. And along with strategies, methods and tools, leaders now have the ability to better design a successful path forward.

We are already seeing a change in focus from siloed rigid data, to flexible systems that allow leaders to mobilise business processes on the fly. Having capabilities for data integration and predictive insights, allows leaders to take immediate action and deliver innovations to compete with the turbulent times. Take for example, Italy’s largest supermarket chain, Supermercato24. Using Business Intelligence tools like Domo, they were able to scale quickly to manage the 10x surge in demand during the initial weeks of the pandemic.

There are a lot of unknowns ahead, however one thing that is certain is how data will emerge from the outbreak with a new legacy. Data is powerful, but it is just one piece of the puzzle. It’s important to empower people to analyse, understand, and communicate with data, especially in times of crisis. Leveraging data analytics and BI tools should not be seen as a short-term fix in light of the current climate, it should be a long-term goal. Doing so will give businesses the speed, scale and agility necessary to cope with future unexpected events. Covid-19 has elicited businesses to rethink the way they run their organisations, it has acted as an inflection point, and put pressure on leaders to accelerate new ways of working that puts data at the heart.

Simon Hayward, Vice President EMEA, Domo