Everything from staffing and workflows to customer service and product delivery had to be rapidly adjusted to cope with continually evolving market conditions. For some, the disruptions led to permanent closure while for others it led to a fundamental change in operations.
Restaurants shifted from in-person dining to home delivery and back again, while bricks-and-mortar retailers relied on online sales to keep things humming. Government departments suddenly had to manage hundreds of thousands of new citizen issues and vast numbers of payments.
In all cases, organisations gained a new understanding of the importance of data. Without access to accurate data on stock levels, customer order rates, and business expenses, such rapid transformation would simply not have been possible.
The ever-rising challenge of data management
Data management has become increasingly complex with the widespread adoption of digital technologies. With data being generated by more devices and endpoints than ever before, new methods need to be adopted to collect, store, and analyse it.
While data warehouses and data lakes have been sufficient to overcome most management issues, accelerated business change has now made it difficult for companies to use these tools to respond effectively when changes occur in the market.
An alternative approach to data management that offers the speed, agility and scalability to keep up with rising demands is creation of a data fabric. This strategy involves unlocking business data and connecting it like a woven fabric that blankets the entire network environment.
This platform then processes, manages, and stores the data generated so that it is accessible for the advanced analytics that contribute to better customer service, business forecasting, product development, and sales and marketing optimisation.
Evolving customer demands
Having access to a data fabric can assist a business to quickly determine what its customers are seeking. This can be achieved by analysing the data they generate during their customer journey, and positioning supply chains to address that demand.
A survey by consulting firm McKinsey & Company1, on Australian consumer sentiment during the coronavirus crisis revealed that more people expect to make a portion of their purchases online post-COVID-19 than before, with average growth between 20-35% in consumers who purchase online for most categories (Groceries +43%, Food takeout & delivery +35%, or Apparel +24%.) A majority of Australians will continue some of their at-home habits developing during the crisis, like wellness apps, online fitness, or even telemedicine. Without the ability to identify these trends, organisations would simply not be able to keep up.
Three factors inadvertently sabotage these capabilities: internal data silos, high volumes of unprocessed data, and poor data quality. Unintended silos from the rapid adoption of more applications and migration to the cloud make it increasingly difficult to share data between systems and environments.
More applications also result in more data being generated in various formats. This means more time needs to be allocated to finding and standardising data rather than using analytic tools to derive meaning from it.
Data quality concerns stemming from organisational issues also has a negative impact on business decision making. Think of three department heads, all turning up to a meeting with ‘their’ spreadsheet of data – all containing different numbers for the same metric. This, in turn, leads to wasted time, resources and a diminished ability to serve customers. Industry estimates point to it being 10 times as costly to get work done when a business relies on data with underlying flaws.
The benefits of a data fabric
Having a data fabric in place can help an organisation overcome these challenges. It is a unified platform that helps manage the collection, governance, integration, and sharing of data. By allowing fast, frictionless access and sharing of trusted data between internal and external applications, data value is realised and transformation can proceed without roadblocks.
If an organisation is able to access data from across a distributed network environment and use it for advanced analytics, these insights can be used to optimise supply chains and improve customer engagement.
Complying with the growing number of data regulations is also simplified for internal teams. A data fabric delivers scalability that future-proofs data management infrastructures to manage greater data volumes at the pace of change.
The past 12 months have made it clear that companies need to be prepared to quickly adapt to rapid changes in customer demand – and this situation is unlikely to change any time soon. By taking advantage of the benefits offered by a data fabric, they will be better placed to respond to these changes and take advantage of new opportunities as they emerge. And stop wasting time arguing about numbers on spreadsheets in meetings.