Jul 2021 | Articles |

The unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic upended modern life as we know it. It changed the way people thought about work, life and everything in between.


While the world is not out of the woods yet, one thing became clear. Data is a crucial aspect in the prioritisation and delivery of every essential service, including healthcare around the world. Through data, experts are better able to understand, assess and respond to the challenges brought about by the virus.    


According to Deloitte, data enabled governments to react rapidly and develop strategies that would counter the impact of the virus on people and the economy. Moreover, reliable data became the basis for informed policy decisions relating to restrictive protocols, such as travel bans, school closures, quarantine measures and social distancing requirements.


Data, the global consultancy firm added, also became crucial in policy decisions, such as the reopening (or re-closure) of cities, improvements in public health capacity, release of economic aid, and many others.  


The pandemic underscored the importance of data both in fighting the virus and in determining a path forward.


In 2020, data also became pivotal in the decision-making process of business leaders. In fact, COVID-19 became a catalyst for digital transformation, based on the findings of Experian’s 2021 Global Data Management report, which surveyed 700 data practitioners and business leaders to assess how COVID-19 impacted attitudes towards data in organisations.

Rethinking data management strategies

The pandemic saw business leaders grappling to understand and adapt to the ever-evolving customer requirements, which was accelerated even more by the pandemic. With limited face-to-face interactions and the rise of remote work, businesses had to rethink not only the customer, but also the employee experience in digital channels.  


Another key finding of the Experian report was that 93% of the companies surveyed had data management issues because of the pandemic, exhibiting how COVID-19 redefined data management strategies. 


For one, the pandemic highlighted the need for a sound data management strategy to be able to deliver a superb customer experience. By effectively managing data and making sure that it adequately reflects real-world information, businesses can provide a more personalised customer experience.


Given that today’s customers interact with companies using multiple touch points, a data management system that can bring together data from different channels, can help businesses meet customer expectations.


Digital transformation in the pandemic 


Businesses are well aware of the need for digital transformation. Often however, it is easier said than done. Staying competitive in the new normal would call for new practices and strategies, requiring the buy-in of top leadership down to the individual teams. 


The entire organisation needs to understand the importance of data on the customer experience and feel empowered to drive changes when necessary.  


Technology must be seen as a vital element of the business, instead of simply a tool for cost efficiency. As the pandemic accelerated digital adoption among consumers, so to must businesses adjust how they handle and interact with their markets.


A recent report from McKinsey & Co. found that the COVID-19 crisis accelerated the pace of digital adoption in Asia-Pacific by four years and globally, by three years. The report also noted the rapid creation of digital or digitally enhanced offerings, while at the same time suggesting that companies most likely refocused their offerings, instead of making leaps in product development.      


Taking a long-term view, businesses expect technology-related changes to continue in the future. With the majority of customer interactions moving online, there is a need to continually invest in data security, as well as migration to cloud native technologies.


This shows that digital transformation is possible in the midst of a pandemic and that the outcome of these efforts will prepare businesses for future challenges.


Businesses need to understand that the post-pandemic scenario will not simply revert back to physical channels and do away with online interactions that resulted from the pandemic. Instead, digital adoption will be the way forward not only for consumers, but for employees as well, especially as hybrid workplace models are being tested and rolled out across various organisations.


Moreover, Experian found that companies are adopting machine learning, robotic process automation and cloud computing to increase efficiency and productivity while addressing customer expectations, especially during volatile times.


In fact, 57% of Australian businesses are investing in advanced analytics or AI, while 61% are investing in fraud detection methods or software to reduce friction in the digital customer experience.


What this means for business leaders is that they must accelerate—if they haven’t already—the adoption of a data culture across the organisation. In doing so, digital transformation can flourish. 


It is important to note that a company’s digital evolution hinges on data and how it can be used to improve the customer experience. But data alone will not suffice. Businesses require efficient access to data that may come from a variety of channels in order to make sound and timely analysis.     


A data management strategy will enable the organisation to respond quickly and confidently, more so during volatile times. In Experian’s findings, 74% of organisations see data literacy as a core competency that all employees must have in the next five years. 


Learn more about how to make digital transformation happen in your organisation through Experian’s e-book on Accelerating Recovery with Digital Transformation.


Data drives better decisions


At the end of the day, data drives better decisions. The pandemic brought to light gaps in data management practices, but the good news is that leaders across the globe are seeing the value of data.


They are seeing customers interacting with businesses in increasingly complex ways. As such, capturing, integrating and accessing data from multiple touch points will be crucial in delivering a more personalised customer experience. 


Relying on high-quality data can indeed prepare businesses for the future. To achieve this, businesses must first invest in data through the right people, processes and a robust data management system.


Businesses that have, and regularly review, a data management strategy will put themselves in the best position to adapt to changing circumstances, however unforeseen they may be.