How Business Intelligence is helping businesses navigate a crisis

Business leaders are relying less on gut instinct, and more on hard data to navigate unchartered waters.
1 June 2020

Data is trumping gut feel. Source: Shutterstock

  • A report of 500 companies shows Business Intelligence tool usage has risen amid COVID-19 crisis
  • It demonstrates how data insights can provide business clarity in a period of market uncertainty
  • Findings may also points towards better utility of tools and solutions, as organizations take stock of their toolboxes

Businesses are under pressure to prove themselves ‘data-driven’ today, and really, there is little excuse not to be. Where leaders of the past had to rely on gut instinct, the advice of peers, news reports, and customer surveys and the like, today’s enterprises generate data by the minute, all which holds holds valuable, strategy-shaping insight.

Of course, combing through this vast mass of data – generated, collected and stored across various departments and databases throughout the business – is the key challenge, and one that Business Intelligence tools have sought to solve. 

Business Intelligence (BI) strategies and technologies have now been in use for years; enterprises are no strangers to them, leveraging their power in interpreting big data to uncover insights, and to present business and market forecasts, with the end goal of driving a competitive advantage and long-term success. 

These tools – and their many other offshoots – are enabling businesses and individuals within them to act on the data they have in front of them, every day, across a mass of different uses and applications. 

Those are strong advantages in ‘peacetime’, but in the midst of a crisis, and looming economic uncertainty, the plus-points of these tools are now being magnified further. 

The fact is, most markets are in decline – and will be for an extended, and unknown, length of time. Customers have reduced buying power, and that means businesses must optimize what they have, pushing their now limited resources into where the real opportunities can be seized against equally hungry competitors.

Instincts may work to a degree in turbulent times, but utilizing the information available is a much more effective strategy. 

Business Intelligence – showing the way?

That seems to explain the findings from Sisense’s State of BI & Analytics Report 2020: Special COVID-19 Edition, a survey of 500 companies in the US by research firm Meidata, which found that nearly half (49 percent) of companies are using data analytics more than before the COVID-19 crisis. 

As the report goes on to say, it demonstrates the increased importance businesses are placing on examining data to understand the changes and new opportunities around them – and that rise in use is despite more than two-thirds (67 percent) sustaining lost revenues or customers. 

“If we’ve learned anything during COVID-19, no matter how tumultuous the economic environment, businesses of all sizes indicate an interest and optimism in their ability to leverage technologies like data analytics to help guide them through critical decision making,” said Howard Dresner, chief research officer of Dresner Advisory Services, told Analytics Insight

The report continued that BI and analytics are proving as important as ever, but offering “increased clarity in a time of tremendous uncertainty.”

Companies are using BI and data in new ways, turning usage to address the most pressing challenges right now. For example, 55 percent of businesses have started utilizing data to improve efficiency, and claim to rely on it to predict changes and outcomes. 

Interestingly, smaller businesses (those between 51 and 200 employees) are leading the charge and adopting new use cases for their data. They are outpacing larger enterprises in the use of analytics across every department, according to the report. 

“Robust use of data analytics is no longer simply the mark of an industry leader but a crucial quality for the success and even survival of most companies,” said Amir Orad, CEO of Sisense. 

“Companies who adopt data-driven decision making separate themselves from the pack. With analytics they find those vital pivot points and thrive versus facing existential danger.” 

Orad said he was aware of a Fortune 500 company whose revenue had dropped more than 95 percent due to the current crisis, while their analytics usage had shot up by 40 percent – “And this is not a single or unique anecdote.”

While businesses are quickly turning to these tools to gain a clearer market strategy, it may also be that they are better utilizing the resources at their disposal as budgets run tighter, and a review of the tools they need will have likely taken place. 

A commonly-cited challenge with BI and data analytics tools is that, despite being heavy investments, businesses don’t make use of them to their full capacity. 

Now, businesses are re-evaluating what they have and how they should use it, and they are squeezing more out of their business intelligence tools. 

And whether that’s for the end goal of improving business efficiency, reducing expenses or better supporting customers, BI tools can be the key to unlocking the data organizations needed to weather this storm, and to keep them thriving long term.