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Keep calm and carry on using data and analytics

(Image credit: Image Credit: Shutterstock/Sergey Nivens)

Amid the global health crisis, business leaders are scrambling to maintain order, keep their organisations from collapsing, and preserve jobs. The economy is taking an historic beating, and companies must respond quickly in order to protect themselves and their people. If a company has a swift reaction, it can look to safeguard as many jobs as possible, while simultaneously retaining a smooth business operating process. Data and analytics have always been important catalysts for driving change and development, but in these uncertain times, they have risen to the surface as critical tools to utilise. Here are some of the ways in which data and analytics should be used to help you ride out the storm.

Reading your team

It is vital to recognise that this does not breach privacy. These analytics keep employee output anonymous. Typically, programmes will use functions such as a key word search or emoji capture, and the resulting algorithms give real-time reporting on the mood being experienced throughout the workforce.

Working from home is the new normal. An unprecedented number of IT-dependent people are suddenly having to perform their jobs remotely. The situation presents organisations with unfamiliar challenges, but also opportunities. With your company being entirely digital in both its output and internal communication, you can gain a whole new understanding of your team.

Costing processes can now be refined, as time and effort can be more accurately measured. Where before business models worked on estimates to value a task in hand, analytics can now be utilised to gain an improved calculation. This helps a company to include any previously hidden time and skill spent on an operation, and provide more fitting quotations for future work. Your customers’ experience will be all the better if you are able to give them accurate quotes and reliable timeliness, especially under such difficult circumstances.

The same data can be collated to monitor the wellbeing of staff. People working remotely  are carrying out their entire working day on platforms that provide insight and analytics that can be combined with NLP (natural language processing) to build a picture of their health and happiness, and also help to identify where extra support could be needed. These insights are revolutionary in the understanding they give to business leaders and management teams, monitoring the internal spirit of their company. By utilising this, you can gauge your teams’ welfare and respond accordingly to issues, aiding the smooth flow of business operation.

Countering supply chain issues

Now is the right time to invest in specialised tools and expert consultation. There are companies that provide data marketplaces and products, and custom data analytics solutions, as well as insight and support, which are essential to your business’ operation in this problematic climate.

Enormous demand is being placed on the supply chain. At present, data pipelines are continuing to operate, but with extreme stress on resources such as storage and bandwidth.

This is reflected in manual operations around the world, as goods and labour services are diminished, companies are scaling down and some even folding under the strain. We have seen similar a reaction in the digital world, with major streaming platforms such as Netflix pre-empting a surge in demand and radically lowering their resolution.

To help you navigate these difficulties, it is imperative to identify issues ahead of time, just as Netflix did. Data will display behavioural effects and patterns which can be harnessed as analytics to identify issues brewing in the supply chain and plan your effective responses.

The sooner you use data and analytics to assemble your picture of the supply chain, the better. It is important to obtain detail on your own production capabilities and on your supplier’s own supply chain. If you can understand the status and forecast of those businesses, you can also identify contingency plans and alternative sources that you can look to in the event of disruption.

You should also ensure you monitor data on competitor pricing, purchasing power and any other economic elements that influence demand. Preparation is everything. When you possess detail of potential issues, you can construct functions that will help to remedy any issues thrown up by your supply chain. Data can be farmed to build contingency plans and adjust your systems accordingly, therefore measuring and minimising business impact. You can also use this foresight to communicate potential hazards to your customers in advance.

Opening the door to external data

While the coronavirus is having a catastrophic impact on humanity, it is also decimating the global economy. But business-decision makers can use data analytics to increase adaptability and maintain their operations through unpredictable times.

A wealth of data is flowing through data pipelines, and it has never been more pertinent to absorb it quickly. External data should be regarded as an important ingredient in the thinking process of business leaders.

The shock of coronavirus has changed the game, a curve ball that has rendered many processes irrelevant. Many existing algorithms that organisations had in place to form business evaluations and make strategy calls, have been nullified overnight. AI tools like these are constructed using previous year-on-year-patterned data, and therefore these algorithms are not trained to predict an unprecedented scenario. To stay flexible around the current situation and be functional in a future crisis, organisations should adjust their data practices so they can ingest external data. Effective intake of external sources gives you the ability to utilise this data in your own systems and make informed amends.

An example of this process already being implemented is the pharmaceutical industry, which already involves external data in its budgeting and forecasting processes. By using demographic and epidemiological studies, it moulds understanding on the prevalence and impact of disease, and subsequently is placed to make informed decisions around the production and distribution of medicine.

Data-sharing is crucial. In the current climate, academics are proving effective in their exchanging of data science methods and data around Covid-19. Companies must lean on all possible external data to inform their own systems, expand their supply chain understanding and forecast any negative impacts where possible.

It is also  time to consider collaboration. Banks share data to form an individual’s credit score, protecting them from any hazardous lending. Drawing inspiration from this, retail businesses could cooperate to share data and build a stronger collective understanding of supply chains in the current climate.

Andrew Morgan, Head of Data Engineering, 6point6

Andrew Morgan, Head of Data Engineering at 6point6.