COMMENTARY

How COVID-19 makes the business case for more analytics

The global COVID-19 pandemic has given the general public a crash course in data analytics, and a behind-the-scenes look into the decision-making processes involved in scenario planning. The pandemic has also shown how leaders, asked to set priorities in an ever-evolving situation, can use the same data to come to different interpretations and ideas for the best ways to emerge from COVID-19 shutdown. 

As the leader of the data analytics group at SC&H Group, I regularly work with the technologies and methods that leaders worldwide are using to make decisions around the closing and reopening of societies. Advances in data analytics tools have given companies more power than ever before to tackle huge amounts of data.

Is ‘More’ Better?

But quality is even more important than quantity when it comes to data. The decisions that can be made from data are contingent on an organization’s input, and whether clear and current goals and priorities were used when drawing the parameters of that input.

Today, the capacity we have to gather the sheer amount of data we can collect in real-time is staggering. Even a few years ago, we wouldn’t have had the ability to aggregate the data from the lowest level to the highest, then provide easy-to-understand, digestible analysis and projections.

But does better data mean better decisions? Yes and no. Data analytics solutions will be an important factor guiding businesses through the choppy economic times ahead. Ultimately, however, leaders must identify their key performance indicators and use real-time access to these to support their priorities.

Revisit Your Data Collection Goals

Business leaders have traditionally identified key measures in their data collection that have helped them to improve performance and sales. With the drastic changes wrought by COVID-19, businesses that are already employing data analytics will likely need to expand their efforts to analyze the effects of these changes in other aspects of their organization.

With the economic implications of the COVID crisis bearing down on businesses, there’s far less room for guesswork. Businesses could use data analytics to determine how quickly they could rehire furloughed workers. Hospitals and other healthcare providers are using these programs to measure key performance indicators such as the availability of critical supplies and staffing issues.

Restaurant groups that have had to switch their services to delivery might find they want to continue some of these services after the crisis, for example, or companies that had not traditionally employed a work-from-home model might find improvement from continuing this practice. There may be great opportunity to significantly reduce commercial real-estate expense as some companies do not need as much office space as they thought to run their business effectively.

If a company is not collecting data, now is the time to get on board the data train. There’s just no doubt about the value of having real-time data. So many organizations don’t have controls in place for measuring workforce planning, then something like this comes up. You don’t want to spend your time in a crisis like this dealing with another crisis. You need to be able to assess then make decisions quickly.

Creating Your Data Analysis Culture

The ability to collect and process data does not imply there is one truth or one strategy that your data will magically reveal. Just as international, national, regional and local leaders will look at the same data models and come to different conclusions, your leadership team will bring varying perspectives to data. For instance, data modeling can be used to project future scenarios, but leadership teams will need to be able to create a culture that allows them to come together amidst competing priorities to find and enact solutions.

As priorities shift in the changing sands of the current business climate, businesses must train themselves to continually review, asses and act adroitly. Maybe you’ve been looking at your data to answer: ‘What’s going to be the most profitable way to operate right now?’ As the situation changes, those priorities may be simplified to: ‘How do we continue to serve our clients?’

Companies need the right tools to respond quickly, and the data analytics products available today are very powerful tools. Businesses can and should be using them. The future for businesses is evidence-based. The data can take you anywhere you need to go. But the challenge for leaders and their teams will be to assess the data and strategically decide which ‘anywhere’ will be the right path out of COVID-19.

At the end of the day, businesses are going to get out what they put into it – this crash course in analytics is proving out that the analysis is only as strong as the data feeding it.

About the Author

Nick Scott is a director at SC&H Group, working in its business performance management practice. He can be reached at nscott@schgroup.com. The firm’s website can be found at https://www.schgroup.com/.

Reader Comments

Wed, Jun 17, 2020 Molly Vorwerck

Super insightful post, Nick! Great point on quality over quantity, a sentiment that is often lost. I found something else you might enjoy: https://medium.com/@barrmoses/4-ways-to-lead-with-data-during-covid-19-7693d5bd6c94

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