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New World Analytics. How analytics can spearhead business recovery in a post-Covid world




With the current global pandemic causing widespread disruption to traditional working practices, Metryx looked at how analytics can help organisations come out of the crisis stronger and better equipped for the new world we may find ourselves in.

Covid-19 has had a catastrophic human impact across the globe and organisations are now trying to assess what future state exists in the short-term and how they need to adapt in the longer term. By talking to our own clients and those across wider organisations, we have created a short insight series to help organisations understand how analytics can help to support growth in the new world.

We have identified 6 areas where improving analytics capability can have an immediate and sustained impact on success:

1. Automation

2. Efficiency

3. Meeting Culture & Decision-Making

4. Remote Working

5. Market-centric Analytics

6. Looking Forward

In this article we discuss the main themes of each topic, with future posts from the mini-series diving into more detail, alongside supporting case studies and recommendations.

 

1. Automation


With flexible working practices leading the way, back-end processes will need to evolve to match longer term requirements.


Sadly, the vast majority of reporting and insight generation is still done manually, with vast analyst teams crunching through spreadsheets each morning to produce the 'daily reports'.

Whilst this dysfunctional approach to insight appears to have survived thus far, it does not work where you have disintegrated working patterns and remote working. At the furthest extreme you may have teams on early working patterns, waiting for reporting teams starting later before they can do any meaningful work.

There is no reason why structured insight cannot be automated and self-served via mobiles, tablets and desktop on demand - replacing the need, time and cost for individuals to do this manually, while also eliminating the risk of human error.


The freeing up of time spent on producing reports, also allows more time to actually analyse what the numbers mean and produce real, actionable insight for the organisation. Set an analyst free from churning reports to find ‘interesting’ trends & insight, and you not only add value to the business but expect to see their engagement go through the roof.

 

2. Efficiency


Every part of the organisation must be functioning with critical precision and eliminating waste at every step; analytics can play a crucial part in this process.


Automation is one way to achieve greater efficiency, but this alone will not drive the lean, agile organisation of the future required for success in the new world.

We recently worked with an organisation's Regional Manager team to improve efficiency through analytics. We found that over 50% of their time was split between travelling and collating various performance reports for their retailers. By automating metrics into a bespoke dashboard and a self-populating mobile slide deck for each retailer, we not only removed the task of assembling data, but reduced the requirement for physical visits.


By sharing insight with the regional team and retailers simultaneously, the majority of action-planning could be done in advance. The virtual meeting then focused on what measures would be needed to move forward and what support was required from the Regional Manager to achieve this.

We are now in the process of applying this solution across the rest of the organisation, so are expecting to see the same efficiency gains in other areas.

 

3. Meeting Culture & Decision Making


Decision-making in most organisations has until now remained a cumbersome and lengthy process. Most key tactical decisions still revolve around PowerPoint slide-driven discussions in corporate meeting rooms. Often with little ability to question the narrative or dive into the numbers without creating an avalanche of action points and further delays to making the required decision.

Moreover, the process that leads up to this is often characterised by analyst teams crunching data, managers converting this into slides with painstaking attention to corporate fonts & colours and numerous iterations, before the final deck is deemed worthy of senior consumption.


This process relentlessly absorbs time, resource and generates huge people costs for the business, but more important than this, is stifles the creativity and curiosity that should be thriving in our analyst teams.

In our sphere of Analytics strategy and development, the starting point for organisations is often to want to visualise their current reporting in dashboards, hoping a glossier version of their data will transform the business – it rarely works.


To effect real change and become truly agile in decision-making, organisations must look at the complete flow of insight across the business and how key decisions are made.


From talking to senior leaders, the boardroom-style powerpoint presentation rarely serves senior leaders either – generally presentations are shoe-horned into tight agendas with little time for questions or discussion so deferment is often the only outcome.


By implementing a process-centric approach to analytics, organisations can understand the pre-cursors for effective decision making and ensure the right medium is used at the right time to get to the desired result.

 

4. Remote Working


Whilst recent years have seen a softening of some of the office working traditions, the reliance on employees to physically attend the office, pressing buttons to generate reports which are then emailed around the business (whether needed that day or not) still exists corporate environments today.

The move to home-working and virtual meetings as a result of the Covid outbreak has forced organisations to reassess the rules of the game. With some no longer seeing a need for an office entirely, and a fairly hefty overhead bill to match.


But while plans may be underway behind the scenes to trim down the physical footprint, there have been some subtle but very powerful shifts in the culture and expectation of the workforce operating in this digital-only environment.

Productivity. Presenteeism has long been an issue for the large organisation, with hours worked often correlating highly with recognition and advancement. However, no longer is getting in early and staying late, as visible as it was in the 'office days'.


There is much more trust given to employees in a remote working situation and without the basic metric hours-on-site, performance can only really be measured very simply, by output of value-adding work - as a result, the focus on tangible value-add results has increased dramatically.

Virtual Meetings. We are by nature, social animals and engaging in face-to-face meetings gives us an opportunity for social interaction. However, staring into a computer monitor or worse a mobile phone screen, has much lower social value and engagement.


Add to this the exercise of sitting through a narrated slide deck and people soon see this as the worst part of their day. Virtual meetings should be quick, efficient and to the point - used to gain input from all members to a defined end goal.

The art of pre-informing the audience is key in the work of digital decision-making. Participants prefer to read background material, charts, findings and recommendations in their own time and then limit the actual meeting to discussing the merits of each approach, agreeing actions and generally getting off the call as soon as possible.


By introducing responsive storyboards to prepare the participants for the key topics, a more dynamic discussion is created from the start, rather than seeking post-slide feedback at the end of a 60-min Zoom presentation.

 

5. Market-Centric Analytics


In times of crisis, it is common for organisations to get inside the bunker and focus almost exclusively internally – often looking at where to cut cost or how to retain its core customer base.


Conversely, these times are often the most important for looking outside the business at what is happening in the marketplace; what competitors are doing or not doing and how and where consumer attitudes are shifting. All, as an overall indicator of the opportunity that exists for the organisation.

Take agendas for some large organisational board meetings and you will see 80-90% of the content will focus on internal topics; financial performance, manufacturing, sales, supply chain, customer service and legal issues.


In our experience, only a small proportion is ever devoted to evolving market trends, competitor dynamics or bigger social attitudes, that could signify future shifts in consumer sentiment.

Organisations that concentrate on a narrow funnel approach to metrics (enquiries-to-orders) need to move further up into attitudinal metrics, to encapsulate what is happening both in their industry and the general population.


These should not only include what’s happening in the conversations on social media and other network forums today, but what topics are evolving and gaining momentum, that could either present an opportunity or threat further down the line.


A well thought out Market analytics strategy can help here. Capturing very high level topical debate and converting into metric-based insight; for example through %share-of-voice data, to see which topics are gaining momentum socially, through to qualitative supplements from key political or market insight.


With the new world evolving at such pace, having a longer-range barometer will be critical for marketing planners and CEOs alike.

 

6. Looking Forward

Past Performance Is No Guarantee of Future Results. Whilst this phrase is well-known, organisations have long undertaken their forward planning and strategy based on the exact opposite; namely that past performance can be relied upon as a solid base with which to plan the business.

Importantly, what is clear right now is that what happened weeks, even days ago, is no certain predictor for what will happen in the coming few days, weeks and months.


Organisations are finding year-on-year comparisons and performance versus target metrics (agreed pre-Covid) are now completely meaningless. Add to this, the almost impossible task of discerning any credible insight during multiple lockdowns and the focus becomes not what is happening now, but what will be left once the fog starts to clear and organisations are facing a new reality.

What is needed in most cases are curated, data-driven scenarios that show a range of future possibilities and outcomes – these should allow for a semblance of proactive planning, while still remaining agile enough to respond as the actual market situation unfolds.


The ability to track reality as it happens and tweak scenarios, plans and tactics in real time, is critical in the new world – annual planning horizons are potentially too long to be effective in the current climate.


Having complete transparency (if not control) over what is happening in your marketplace will be a key differentiator for those organisations looking to survive the next 6-18 months and come out stronger than before.


 

There is an amazing opportunity now with the growth in visual analytics technology to support super-lean, super-effective, digital decision making as a way of working. With so much uncertainty over what to do next, the focus of smart organisations should not be to try and predict the future, but to create the capability to deal with any future quickly, with precision and from an educated viewpoint.

All of these themes will be discussed in more detail in our upcoming mini-series. To receive these direct to your inbox please subscribe at the bottom of this page.


Metryx is an analytics and visual storytelling consultancy based in the UK. We specialise in Analytics Strategy and solution design & development. If you'd like to find out more about how we could work together, then please get in touch.




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