Business continuity through data

As we move into the next phase of a post-pandemic world, focus for businesses has shifted from keeping the lights on, to thinking about recovery, and planning for the longer term. Virtually every business has taken a financial hit as a result of the ongoing crises. But while action and promises serve to reassure stakeholders, employees, and the public, there needs to be solid evidence in the form of data to truly highlight how business continuity can be achieved, in order to to not only survive, but thrive, in the coming years. But how can they do this?

Access all areas

Businesses have to be more agile when it comes to accessing data available to their organisations. A wealth of information is often not being utilised by businesses in a meaningful way, which can slow down key decision making, and in turn, the route to innovation. Seeing and understanding the breadth of data that businesses possess gives them the opportunity to analyse, forecast, and predict their next moves. It’s also worth businesses understanding that no data is “unimportant”. Of course, in siloes it can be, but when presented as part of something bigger, it helps us to derive key insights into challenges or opportunities that may not have been apparent before.

A major roadblock to maximising data within an enterprise is privacy. Privacy needs to be respected and upheld, but sometimes personal data is where the richest information comes from. For example, health data was, and continues to be, vitally important in curbing the spread of coronavirus – however fears around figures remain. As such, the UK Government has ordered a review, led by Dr. Ben Goldacre, to look into how health data for research and analysis can be used efficiently and safely. If you’ve been tracking along with the rest of the world, it’s perhaps wholly unsurprising that there’s been a transformation in the way data is shared since the pandemic began, as shown in a recent conversation with Health Data Research UK.

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Get rid of dead-end dashboards

Often data answers the questions that were important two weeks ago. However, the increased need for speed created by the pandemic means that business’ priorities often shift and change at pace, meaning the c-suite needs the latest information at their fingertips, in real-time.

By the time the data has been pulled, the conversation has already moved on, leaving dashboards out-of-date, and therefore, obsolete. Up-to-the-minute data needs to be available to leaders to help inform their decisions then and there. It’s time to put “the dash in dashboard”, otherwise organisations risk falling behind the curve, and letting their competitors take the lead.

The ‘5 Whys’

Business continuity is all about finding the root cause of the problem, not just what’s on the surface, and companies need to be able to hone in on data. It’s not about getting more data, but about using the data that you have well. A key principle to follow when troubleshooting this as a model within business is the ‘5 Whys’. The concept wherein you ask the question ‘why’ five times to really dig into the problem that needs to be answered.

Now that the fog has lifted a little from the initial onset of COVID, Hackney Council is looking at how they will continue to use data to help their organisation, after initially applying it so well to tracking testing and positive rates amongst residents. For example, they’re exploring how it can be used to plan services and goal setting around, activities like temperature testing, sourcing community champions, and providing the latest health information.

Overall, there’s a very clear and present need to look at data surrounding any business problem. It’s no use trying to get siloed data to inform the bigger picture. Data can highlight patterns, but it requires input from experts to make sense of it – and in turn, act upon it. Looking at the wider picture data paints is crucial to gaining market share and staying one step ahead.

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Andy Cotgreave

Senior Director and Data Evangelist at Tableau.