Driven to find better ways to manage operations during the economic challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, business leaders have increasingly turned to business analytics to better manage risk, fuel decision-making, and provide valuable insights into developing strategy.

Business analytics has already provided the key to understanding, mitigating, and vaccinating against COVID-19. Now, executives want to better understand business opportunities and threats as the world emerges from the grip of the pandemic.

As noted by TechRepublic, businesses of all sizes are investing in analytics in three key areas: improving efficiency during the economic uncertainties caused by the pandemic, supporting customers, and predicting changes and outcomes.

Business Leaders Turning to Analytics

A recent survey of business leaders by analytics platform provider Sinsense provided a clear picture of how analytics now play a larger role in business. Called “State of BI & Analytics Report 2020: Special COVID-19 Edition,” the survey involved 500 data professionals and business executives across all industry sectors.

The survey reported that 49% of companies use analytics “more or much more” than before the pandemic. Among smaller businesses, defined as those with 51 to 200 employees, 68% reported using analytics in operations, 56% in finance, 50% in sales, and 45% in products.

As to the question of why they are using data analytics, the survey participants answered:

  • 55% use data to improve efficiency
  • 47% use data to improve business interactions with their customers
  • 45% use data to predict business outcomes

Harry Glaser, chief business officer of Sisense, told TechRepublic that, historically, a crisis – whether financial, geopolitical or weather-related – often advances the reliance on data and analytics.

“Data-driven decision making has been a business goal for many years, but there is nothing like a global financial crisis to spur decisive, agile, and insightful perspectives to keep your business afloat,” he said.

Analytics Have Helped Businesses Survive the Pandemic

While efficiency continues to rank as the top reason companies use business analytics tools, the pandemic has created unique situations where data has helped. For example, some businesses have used customer relationship management (CRM) systems and social media data to get feedback on what customers needed to feel safe at brick-and-mortar stores throughout the pandemic.

Business intelligence tools that support data-driven decisions through sales forecasts and stress tests have also become increasingly vital to maintain profitable operations during the challenges of the current economy.

In a report on the use of data during the pandemic, Deloitte wrote that companies using data-driven insights show higher resilience in a turbulent economy. They also point out that companies with an “insight-driven by default” approach have tightened dominant market positions and grown share value during the crisis.

“These organizations are equipped to manage the crisis more smoothly, and we also expect them to recover and excel faster once markets and regulatory efforts return to normal,” the report stated.

Those Who Use Analytics Voice Optimism

One interesting perspective from the Sisense survey shows business leaders expressing great optimism about the future, with 79% reporting they expect to survive the COVID-19 shutdowns and, in some cases, expand their operations. Almost half said they see business opportunities coming out of the pandemic.

Many companies leveraging data analytics to make operations more efficient and effective may also launch broader changes in their business approach. According to the survey, government agencies and businesses in the healthcare, travel, and manufacturing industries plan to use COVID-19 as a chance to refocus their business model and overhaul resource planning.

The Master of Science in Business Analytics

In the business environment created by the pandemic, those with skills in business analytics will become more valued than ever. A Master of Science in Business Analytics degree prepares graduates with the skills needed to bring the most sophisticated analytics methods and tools to solve business challenges.

The Merrimack College MS in Business Analytics is offered through a collaboration between the college’s School of Science & Engineering and the Girard School of Business. Available to students online, the program’s flexibility allows busy professionals to earn their graduate degrees and boost their careers in data analytics while maintaining their current positions.

Merrimack College designed the program with insight from an industry advisory council, ensuring that graduates leave the program with the skills employers currently need. That’s especially important in the current situation where unique circumstances have made business analytics experts more highly respected – and needed – than ever.