The uncertain and fast-changing nature of the Covid-19 pandemic is an uncomfortable rollercoaster ride for business leaders. Of course, the health and safety of employees and enabling crisis response must be the overwhelming immediate priority. But as the situation stabilises, organisations need to focus on how they are going to rise to the challenge of safeguarding the long-term viability of their business in the ‘new normal’.

It’s imperative that cloud-based data platforms and data analytics play a large role in these plans, from preserving the business, to formulating the frameworks of new processes and forecasting what’s next. Being data-driven also means quicker and more informed decisions. And making good decisions that are timely and informed will be critical to how well businesses survive this crisis.

By optimising existing data and analytics processes, automating tasks, reducing total cost of ownership of data platforms and embracing artificial intelligence, business leaders can maximise their chances of emerging from the Covid-19 crisis on a positive trajectory of profitable growth.

Coronavirus business recovery: The path to prosperity

In every crisis there are winners and losers. According to IDC’s EMEA Covid-19 impact survey, 61% of businesses surveyed expect to see a decline in revenue for 2020. Conversely, 24% of businesses expect to see an increase in revenue during the year ahead. Whatever your business, the current crisis will require you to act at speed and tailor your response and strategy according to fast changing macro conditions.

This means planning for three central data-driven pathways:

  • Resilience – developing a robust immediate response to the crisis today
  • Realignment – responding to the severe economic pressures and pivoting as required
  • Recovery – embracing digital technologies and data analytics to assist future growth

The duration of each phase will vary depending on your industry and location, and you will likely find that you’ll be operating across more than one at a time.

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Resilience: Stabilise the business

As the shock of the pandemic upturns supply chains, disrupts consumer/customer demand and upends established business and IT processes, it becomes imperative to ensure operational resilience.

While many industries are focused on near-term issues of cash flow, managing liquidity and solvency during a temporary period of a lockdown, other factors to stabilise and protect the business need to be considered. Disrupted supply chains will need to be re-evaluated, the productivity of remote workforces assessed and the feasibility of moving services online where possible addressed.

You will need a robust, resilient and high performing IT infrastructure to underpin all of this. And your data and analytics professionals will need to revisit the resilience plans for your data platform to ensure it stands up in the current operating environment. This includes ensuring that maintenance is being carried out, such as automating database tuning, data distribution and compression.

This initial phase will be temporary however, and so future decisions must be contemplated and planned.

Realignment: Adjust processes

In order to survive the strong recessionary economic headwinds that will follow Covid-19, you also need to be laser focused on increasing business value while reducing operating costs. A focus on prioritising bottom line benefits and improving the return on investment (ROI) for both business and IT investments is crucial.

You might choose to concentrate on existing products and customers as a source of revenue, driving product adoption and aggressively pursuing upselling and cross-selling opportunities. Or look at cost containment measures that streamline core operations, or redesign processes to capitalise on digital efforts. In fact, the same IDC report finds that 71% of digital projects will be revaluated to deliver larger ROI and more efficiency.

Recovery: Accelerate growth

You must also take time to prepare for when the recession subsides. A BCG study analysed company performance over the past four recessions and identified that 14% of companies were not only able to accelerate growth but also increase profitability.

In this new normal it’s likely that more and more of our lives will be digitised than ever before. You should therefore look towards sustainable innovation, specifically by harnessing the opportunities presented by digital technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to steer and achieve recovery and growth.

The role of data-driven decisions

To remain successful, data must underlie every phase and every aspect of your business, which can provide critical, objective input to readjust plans, predictions and automate decision-making.

While many businesses are not short of data, getting rapid access to timely and relevant data can be more of a challenge. But this is of paramount importance to inform both short-term decisions and necessary medium to longer term adjustments to business strategies and operational plans.

Companies that have invested in a chief data officer (CDO) are well positioned as they are part of the executive management team and the owner of enterprise-wide governance and utilisation of data. Bringing people together across the organisation to help them apply data insights to business operations – driving the business forward on multiple departmental levels – advancing innovation, operational efficiencies and revenue growth.

This puts businesses in good stead to effect change with a data-driven, people-centric enterprise-wide approach – both during the crisis response and in the future.

Tools that focus on speed and performance

Embracing the flexibility of the cloud is also a must as businesses look to scale-up their data infrastructure. The cloud enables large numbers of people to access large volumes of data in real-time so that data can be turned into value faster than ever. If you unite and analyse data from various sources into a centralised cloud-based data platform the numbers can do the talking.

Added to that, the deployment of AI-enabled solutions can boost revenue and renew top-line growth. Analysing immense volumes of data to learn underlying patterns that continuously learn and adapt – evolving over time. This enables you to make complex decisions, predict behaviours or emerging trends and anticipate potential future shocks.

Achieving profitable growth

Decision-making is extremely important in times of crisis, but it also becomes more challenging; because there is so much uncertainty about the future. With data and analytics at the core of your decision-making your teams can objectively evaluate multiple business situations, which empowers your business to be nimble as the wider economic landscape evolves.

Now is the time to maximise your chances of emerging from the Covid-19 crisis on a positive trajectory of profitable growth by following these data-driven steps to success.

Read more: 5G vital to post-coronavirus recovery, experts tell G20