As offices cautiously reopen and services resume, businesses are turning to analytics to inform the way forward. Without relying solely on intuition, the vast proliferation of data has enabled organisations to use business analytics to navigate the choppy waters of an economic downturn.
From enabling them to understand the dynamics of their businesses better to helping them anticipate risks and opportunities, analytics can also play a critical role in helping them make data-driven decisions that can greatly improve operational efficiencies, cut costs, create safe spaces for employees and help explore new business territories.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has given visibility to an organisation into the decision-making processes involved in scenario planning,” says Anirban Nandi, Head of Analytics at Rakuten. “The situation has demanded organisations to set priorities in an ever-evolving situation, and use data analytics to come to different interpretations and ideas for the best ways to emerge from the crisis,” he adds.
Interpreting data to unearth such crucial insights have been made possible by the vast array of tools and techniques available today. On the back of emerging technologies, descriptive, predictive and prescriptive analytics have allowed organisations to make informed decisions on how aggressively they need to restore operations to stabilise and operate in the new normal.
While the potential of business analytics is manifold, here are some of the ways in which organisations can leverage it to accelerate their return to work:
Boost Business Processes & Operations
Data and analytics can play a huge role in fine-tuning and streamlining business operations to improve productivity and performance. This has been corroborated by a recent KPMG report that states that numerous firms use predictive analytics to anticipate operational issues to avoid bigger problems later.
In fact, looking internally to examine and evaluate key performance indicators should be the first step as companies consider returning to work. Agrees Anirban:
“Organisations must identify their key performance indicators and use real-time access to analytics to support their priorities. Hospitals and other healthcare providers are using it 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. Companies that had not traditionally employed a work-from-home model might find improvement from continuing this practice, as there may be a great opportunity to significantly reduce commercial real-estate expenses,” he says.
Analytics provides a unique value proposition when it comes to measuring these performance indicators across various business functions, including workforce planning and operations, to drive their post-COVID strategy.
They should compare past and present data to understand current performance, and thereafter, plan ahead. This will give them a clearer view of what functions are running efficiently, and those that are not. It will also help them answer key questions: what was the cause of the problem? Why did it happen, and can it happen in the future?
“The world we live in now, versus the pre-pandemic stage is very different,” says Abhay Pai, co-founder and CTO of StepSetGo. “A simple routine that we followed earlier has been completely disrupted. Stakeholders should identify such changes in consumer behaviour and make informed decisions or even pivot if required,” he adds.
Such an approach can help organisations allocate resources better, and give them a heightened understanding of the course the company is likely to take on the path to recovery.
Monitor & Improve Financial Performance
Looking inward and running a detailed internal analysis can also help companies discover new ways to cut costs. This is important since economic uncertainty demands that organisations run a lean business and closely examine their spending patterns as revenue is no longer accurately predictable.
How can analytics help? By identifying key data correlations, it can generate detailed insights to better understand cost valuations as well as pricing segmentation. This can help streamline certain operations, and help companies understand if, when, and where they should lay off employees to keep the company afloat. Similarly, data can also help them ramp up their workforce once operations stabilise and output increase.
“With the economic implications of the COVID-19 crisis bearing down on businesses, there’s far less room for guesswork,” says Anirban. “Businesses could use data analytics to determine how quickly they could rehire furloughed workers,” he adds.
Ensure Safety Of Employees
As offices reopen amid the COVID-19 crisis, the onus lies on organisations to make decisions that ensure the safety of their employees as they begin working together again. Be it creating a flexible schedule to avoid crowding, to using tools to manage proximity of employees to each other, companies can take advantage of analytics to manage this crisis better.
For instance, Globus.AI can help organisations create proper shifts that pair people who need to work together more frequently for better outputs, factoring in legal mandates as well as employees who are on leave. With companies not allowed to work at full capacity yet, these tools will help them determine who should come to the office and who should stay back and continue working remotely.
Another way analytics can help boost productivity as well as employee safety is by helping create a new office layout that makes it easier for employees to respect social distancing protocols. What is more, if used appropriately, analytics can also be a useful tool in safeguarding the mental well-being of employees as they transition back to the workplace.
“Analytics plays an important role in the success of an organisation. Here, data can be divided into two parts: hard data and soft data,” says Sumit Mittal, founder of VentAllOut. “While everyone gathers hard data, soft data gives information about other aspects of the user such as nature, resilience, etc. which cannot be gathered through black and white data but through enhanced analytics and the ability to share data,” he adds.
Minimise & Manage Risk
While the current situation demands that companies leverage data and analytics to boost their overall performance, they should also direct efforts to quantify and predict risks using the same data and integrate such risk analysis to their core strategic decision making processes.
As elucidated here, banks lead the fray by using data and analytics to identify high-risk payments and customers who are likely to default on loans. Using transactional and consumer data, as well as information provided on public domains like government websites and social media platforms, financial institutions are able to improve their accuracy and predictability when it comes to credit risk models.
Thus, robust risk assessment using data can help companies adapt to uncertainties and respond to it in an appropriate way.
Identify Newer Opportunities
While analysing data can help improve operational efficiencies, cut costs and ensure employee safety, it can also help identify business opportunities that may be hiding in plain sight. One example could be discovering untapped consumer segments.
By digitising consumer interactions, companies get access to a vast cache of data which can shore up to core strategies, enabling targeted focus on certain customer segments and personalisation of services. In fact, according to a McKinsey report, business analytics can increase marketing productivity by up to 20%, thus, boosting the potential for growth and profitability in an organisation.
A more data-centric customer-focused approach also helps identify key products and services that need to be highlighted, further improving a company’s ability to make profits.
“As priorities shift, businesses must train themselves to continually review, assess and act quickly,” says Anirban. “The future for businesses is evidence-based. Data and analytic solutions can take organisations anywhere they need to go. But the challenge for organisations, leaders and their teams will be to assess the data and strategically decide which ‘anywhere’ will be the right path going forward,” he adds.
Organisations across industries are generating vast amounts of data every day, and this has enabled them to find recourse in analytics to support their decision making in times of crisis. Not only will it help them overcome the current crisis, but will also enable them to remain flexible and adopt practices that the subsequent crisis will demand.
This is an important quality businesses should have in an increasingly volatile environment. The ability to identify opportunities and risks, as well as change business models as required would dictate their long-term success.
Shashank Shekhar, Head – Advanced Analytics & Data Sciences at Subex sums it up:
“Advanced analytics and data sciences can help businesses identify areas within their ecosystem which are most likely to perform well and provide relatively higher returns, and hence, companies can direct their energies and focus to areas they know will continue to do well,” he says. “A data-driven approach is key to digital transformation and that is what most companies, irrespective of the business vertical they belong to, will have to conduct,” he adds.