Why data is your most valuable business asset in achieving resilience

Tony Hammond Profile picture for user Tony Hammond December 11, 2020
Businesses need to tap into data more effectively to build resilience, says Tableau's Tony Hammond.


With a surge of COVID-19 cases triggering new restrictions around the world, ongoing disruption hangs over businesses which face continued difficult decisions and challenging realities. The added pressure to get things right, as well as quickly learning from mistakes, all falls heavy on the shoulders of businesses across the board.

In 2021, it is critical that businesses honestly reflect on the past year, with a particular focus on understanding the wealth of data available to them and how it can be used to guide their organizations to out-perform and out-survive.

In order to protect and future-proof an organization during these unprecedented times, businesses must turn to data to ensure resilience and to provide a competitive edge.

However, it’s not as easy as just flipping a switch. Implementing a data-driven business strategy is something that an entire organisation needs to be on board with, including drive from the C-Suite.

Data divide 

Looking closer at the ways in which European businesses specifically have navigated the pandemic, we recently commissioned research by YouGov, which surveyed more than 3,500 senior managers and IT decision makers in four major European markets: UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands. The research found that nearly 60% of survey respondents identified as data-driven - companies that value data and ensure employees have access to data to make data-based business decisions. This figure positively indicates that leaders are prioritising digital acceleration and data transformation regionally.

However, while the study revealed favourable perspectives with many European businesses, the research also found that some still haven’t fully grasped the value and importance of data. Only 29% of respondents who classified themselves as non data-driven, see data as a critical advantage and only 36% are confident that they will ensure business decisions are supported by data.

Furthermore, one in two of the non-data driven companies regard themselves more pessimistic about the future of their business. With these businesses at risk of entering the future slightly 'data-blind' because they have also said they will reduce or stop investing in data skills. This pessimistic outlook leads to organisations and their employees being less equipped with data-related resources and skills, and in turn, their business overall will likely lag behind competitors which embrace, and therefore thrive, with data.

In contrast, data-driven leaders are more optimistic about the future of their business, with 68% seeing a positive outlook. Furthermore, 80% of data-driven businesses claim they have a critical advantage as the impact of the pandemic continues.

Leveraging data to pivot and react in an agile manner

Those that are already enjoying the benefits of becoming data-driven have seen more effective communication between employees and customers (42%), the ability to make strategic business decisions faster (40%), as well as increased team collaboration for decision making and problem solving (36%). When new problems arise , it is critical that businesses are able to solve these issues in a time- and cost-effective way. The ability to analyse data drives this capability.

For example, Huel, a UK-based nutritional meal replacement provider, encountered challenges when making decisions with data due to cumbersome and delayed analytics. The business required interactive, self-service analytics to democratise the data collected from international customers and gradually built a data-driven company culture. The value of this is summed up by Jay Kotecha, a Huel data scientist as:

Our data-driven strategy is helping us respond to consumer behavior—enabling us to pivot and react with greater speed and clarity. It’s all about empowering the full organisation through data.

Prioritising data literacy to increase competitiveness

Data literacy is a priority for businesses that are data-driven as it increases competitiveness and the possibility of future success. This is supported by the YouGov research which indicates that nearly 75% of the data-driven companies across all four markets see a need to continue, or increase, spending on data skills training and development in the future.

Simple and small team initiatives such as learning hours, mentoring, and relevant training can foster a data-driven company culture. This can all help to nurture data skills, knowledge, and analytics passion within the organization that will create a long-term impact.

Investing in data for the future

It is hard to predict what will happen in the next 12, or even six, months but from observing and listening to customers, stakeholders and prospects across a wide range of industries, it is clear that resilient organizations are those who empower their people with data.

Indeed, when asked about their top three lessons from the pandemic, the need for greater business agility, project prioritization and having access to more accurate, timely and clean data (25%) were cited by European business leaders.

This is totally understandable. Data drives problem-solving, change, and confidence. It is a powerful way for businesses to gain a competitive advantage during these challenging times.

Becoming data-driven is not out of reach and it is never too late to harness the value of data.

As we look to 2021, businesses that invest in products, services and training focused on improving data literacy and supporting data-driven strategies will ultimately be the ones that thrive.

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