What COVID-19 means for Analytics Leaders

Author: Sethu Janardhanan

Summary

– Analytics Leaders play a pivotal role in making their company agile, resilient and successful in the post-pandemic world.
– Embracing cloud-based technology is key to a resilient operation.
– Business challenges are best solved by proactively partnering with business functions to deploy the tools of data science.
– Uncertainty is here to stay. Prepare your company to withstand the shock.
– Focus analytical efforts on the needs of business users for maximum impact.

You’re an Analytics, Business Intelligence, or Data Science Leader, or maybe all three. The COVID-19 pandemic is having a transformative impact on business and your team can play a pivotal role in helping your company navigate these uncertain times, build resilience, and thrive. Here’s how:

Be a cloud champion.

Remote work will be the norm for a long time to come. Getting your organization on the cloud ensures performance, scale, flexibility, and reliability. Data and models are always accessible, can be updated from anywhere, and can feed any system. Redundancy is built-in. A truly global analytics operation gives your company the power to identify even the tiniest changes earlier and respond faster.

Do more than innovate: co-innovate!

Data, digital technology, and analytics are among the best weapons your company has against uncertainty and rapid change. Co-innovating means finding ways for analytics to contribute to every aspect of your company’s operations and performance. Proactively seek out opportunities to solve business challenges by reaching out to business leaders.

Many commercial activities have gone online during the pandemic. They are unlikely to ever return completely to their legacy in-person state. In this environment, analytics can make substantial, impactful contributions both within your company and externally.

Monitoring algorithms customized to your company can flag cybersecurity risks that off-the-shelf software may not catch. Vast amounts of operating data gathered by the Industrial Internet of Things is already used for remote diagnostics and predicting maintenance needs. Digital twins simulate product behavior and can support extreme scenario testing. Artificial Intelligence models can significantly increase the company’s ability to detect trends and respond to them.

Co-innovating will not only harness the power of data science to solve business challenges; it will also make your company more agile and resilient.

Prepare your company for future shocks.

The environmental, social, and economic changes affecting the planet all but ensure that extreme events will recur fairly frequently in the future. Traditionally, companies have planned for the ‘normal’ and retained untested contingency plans for the ‘extreme,’ but that may no longer suffice. Data gathered during COVID-19 will be of immense value in simulating extreme scenarios and preparing robust contingency plans. The protocols and procedures developed to analyze COVID-19 data can also be applied in extreme scenario planning.

Make analytical insights accessible, understandable, and actionable.

As the pandemic drives rapid changes in demand patterns, supply constraints, macroeconomic conditions and geopolitics, speed and adaptability are key. Your company needs up-to-date, reliable, and easy-to-use data and analysis that accelerate decision-making and are highly sensitive to minor changes.

With a laser focus on the needs of business users struggling to cope with COVID-19-induced uncertainty, analytics should be:

Easy to access on any authorized device, at any time, by anyone in the company who needs them.
Integrated seamlessly into end systems throughout the organization where they can speed up decision-making.
User-friendly, with visualizations that non-data scientists can understand and interpret easily.
Updated frequently, preferably in real-time as new data come in. COVID-19 is causing circumstances to change so fast that waiting to gather ‘enough’ data can delay results and render analyses irrelevant.
Automated to be fast and cost-effective to deploy. Keeping operating expenses under control will be a key factor as companies struggle to recover from the loss of business. While human supervision is required, manual model maintenance is a luxury your company can no longer afford.
Highly sensitive, so as to detect minute anomalies in data that may indicate changed behavior patterns, opportunities, or risks as the pandemic situation evolves.
Relevant to the challenges faced by business functions and teams in improving your company’s operating efficiency, such as supply chain optimization, inventory turns, or capacity utilization.
Granular at a level where the organization can take actions directly derived from their results and tied directly to business metrics such as margins, costs, and revenue.
Stress-tested to be able to handle extreme scenarios and support contingency planning, not just the ‘normal’ case. Post-pandemic, there may no longer be a ‘normal’ case. Extreme scenarios are likely to arise far more frequently due to macroeconomic and geopolitical uncertainty.

COVID-19 has accelerated the pace of business significantly. Data science, partnered with digital technology, can be the lifeline that companies need to navigate through the uncertainty. As the Analytics Leader, you play a pivotal role in ensuring that your organization captures every opportunity, mitigates every risk, and thrives in the challenging post-pandemic environment.

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