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How has data changed during the pandemic?

As a direct result of the pandemic, our whole lives have shifted online. From the way we work to how we shop, our communication with friends and family to the way we access medical care, it is largely done virtually.

What was expected to be transient period of adjustment has now become the norm, and this has led to rapid acceleration of technologies that were in their infancy pre-pandemic, specifically Data and Analytics. These capabilities, including AI and machine learning, were all present within our daily lives but, many of the models were works in progress, requiring time to be perfected, helping us overcome personal and professional difficulties in a much smoother and more effective way.

But, as noted in a recent McKinsey report; “Today, time is a luxury that leaders don’t have. COVID-19 had upended business as usual for communities and corporations, which must now strive first and foremost to save lives and livelihoods.” The pandemic has greatly accelerated the rate in which we have been building, implementing and using data to help businesses and their teams to navigate this turbulent time. From managing supply chains and financial risks and finding new ways to innovate services for the ‘new normal’, the implementation and use of Data has been, and will be for the foreseeable future, a crucial element of any successfully operating business.

Decision making

Businesses use data and analytics to support their decisions and find solutions to difficult problems, enabling them to become more competitive and identify any challenges before they cause larger financial and structural problems. And so, it is no surprise that business leaders across all sectors have been leaning against hard numbers and statistics as a navigational tool more recently than ever, and this trend is set to continue. By 2023, over a third of businesses are expected to use Data and Analytics to practice decision intelligence, including decision modelling.

By using Data to make informed decisions, leaders are more likely to make the correct decisions first time around, instead of relying on intuition or ‘gut-feelings’ which are usually born out of incorrect observations. This consequently means companies will save both time and money as well as creating a greater sense of confidence around decision making. A win-win for all.

Growth

Despite the difficulties the past nine months has presented, it has been reported that 79 per cent of leaders believe that they will survive, some even suggesting they will grow and thrive, post-pandemic. Interestingly, there is a strong correlation between this optimism and the belief that analytics will continue to be just as, or more, important than they were before Covid-19.

The biggest area of hope lies in the internal growth that data and analytics will undoubtedly create across many teams nationally and globally. In a recent study by Sisense, 46 per cent of respondents say they see new opportunities arising as a result of the coronavirus; 34 per cent are actively growing their data teams; and 28 per cent are currently working on using data to spot and act on new business opportunities.

Protecting people

It is more than likely that, post-pandemic, we will see a large change across working routines when it comes to remote working and flexible working. Research has identified that nine in 10 workers want to work from home full- or part-time, and as 82 per cent of UK businesses are prepared to on board with a remote working element to their business models, the way leaders and HR teams manage and support their people will change dramatically.

The use of Data and Analytics will undoubtedly increase in this area to help teams communicate how they are feeling, personally and professionally, as well as allowing leaders to measure levels of productivity, wellbeing, motivation and retention.

Of course, as with anything data related, businesses must tread carefully and ensure the legalities of data use are adhered to, such as GDPR, or risk facing hefty fines or even closure – especially when it comes to their teams’ private data.

Data and analytics now play a much more important and regular part in the day-to-day running of a business, especially as many leaders and senior teams continue to battle through the unknowns of the COVID-19 pandemic. But, even after the pandemic has subsided and businesses stand on more level footing, Data isn’t going to be a fad that disappears. Instead, it will be something that current teams use to enhance their offerings to both clients and employees, making processes more efficient and effective and helping them stand out from the competition.

As Brad Porteus, Global Chief People Officer for OLX Group, says: “Data analytics can help us stay ahead of the curve and ideally ensure that we are on our front foot instead of our back foot.”