Has the Pandemic Ushered in a Golden Age for Data and Analytics?
Five leading women from our Top 100 Global Innovators in Data and Analytics list met to discuss how shifting customer demand in the pandemic has supercharged the need for data and analytics
The pandemic, for better or for worse, has affected different industries differently. But one thing is the same across the market – historical consumer data has become a terrible predictor of demand.
In this 30-minute Business of Data special, five of the inspirational women on our Global Top 100 Innovators in Data and Analytics list discuss how the pandemic has shaped customer demand and the resulting effect on data and analytics.
“Most businesses have consumer demand forecasting models that they have refined over, in some cases, many decades to predict consumer demand and customer behavior,” says Dr Amy Gershkoff Bolles, Bitly CDO and GM of BitlyIQ. “None of them work anymore.”
Customer Demand Shakes Up the Market
Consumer markets are driven by confidence and behavior, both of these have been severely shaken by the pandemic. In a business landscape free of reliably predictive historical models, real-time data and analytics have become crucial tools.
From the early days of outbreak, airlines were among the hardest hit companies when lockdowns and travel restrictions caused chaos in the travel industry.
“The whole environment has changed drastically. [In regard to] customers particularly, what is very important to us is to understand their confidence,” explains Minna Kärhä, Data and Analytics Lead at Finnair. “We are closely following online data to see what people are searching for and using that to compliment the confidence dataset.”
Meanwhile, in the telecommunications industry, consumer demand has been at an all-time high. For UK telecommunications infrastructure provider BT Openreach, this has led to a wide-ranging re-evaluation of data processes and strategy.
“We’ve really had to accelerate our customer-focused data strategy and that’s all about looking at the analytics through the eyes of the end customer,” says BT Openreach Director of Data and Analytics Nirali Patel. “We’re identifying innovative ways to keep the complaints down and to keep the faults on [phone and internet] lines down.
Our panelists agreed, understanding the changes to customer need in these unusual times. Real-time data and analytics provide the information businesses need to develop a more complete picture.
“From a strategy point of view, it is really driving the single view of the customer as well as data acquisition strategy to enrich our customer profile,” says Maritza Curry, Head of Data at South African bank RCS. “It is also driving innovation in creating data-driven products for our customers.”
A New Era for Data and Analytics
While many companies were moving toward digital delivery models for goods and services before the pandemic, this trend rapidly accelerated through 2020.
“Many organizations have had a [digital] transformation roadmap for the delivery of digitized services,” says Mastercard Chief Data Officer JoAnn Stonier. “[but that] doesn’t’ necessarily mean it’s a panacea for some of the business challenges that they have in front of them.”
“The effects of the pandemic have not been universally felt, so how quickly anybody can execute against that roadmaps is different sector by sector given the vagaries for the pandemic,” she concludes.
Organizations that have been doing more business digitally are experiencing an unanticipated benefit – they are generating even more customer data. This has forced businesses to bolster their data infrastructure and governance processes.
“All of a sudden, companies have had to think about their data strategy in a very different way because they are starting to collect so much more data from all of these transactions,” says Dr Gershkoff Bolles. “So, thinking about how to store that data, how to make that data available in a privacy-protected way throughout their organization, how to do real-time analytics on that data to continue their process of optimization.”
This focus on data and analytics has provided opportunities for business to improve their products and services and understand their customer better at the same time – one minor silver-lining to take away from what has been a tragic year.
“If somebody would have told me that this is what 2020 would have looked like I wouldn’t have believed them. It’s like a science fiction movie or something,” says Kärhä. “But I am happy to see how important data and analytics has proven to be during this time, so that’s a good thing.”
- Real-time data is more essential than ever in a pandemic. Historical data has lost its predictive power, making real-time insights vital
- Businesses need to develop a clear view of customer needs. Businesses are using data and analytics to enrich their understanding of their customers
- Companies have rapidly accelerated their digitization roadmaps. Developing a strong digital offering is no longer a ‘nice to have’, it is essential