In times of crisis—indeed at any time—you need the ability to piece together key data points about your business and quickly make informed decisions. Today, the world at large is undergoing unprecedented upheaval, forcing businesses to adapt and respond at a moment’s notice. A strategic business plan made yesterday can be woefully out of date by tomorrow, so organizations must be able to change course on a dime.

By leaning into reliable data and real-time analytics, organizations can create a powerful framework not only for business continuity but also to fuel growth during the global pandemic. Such a framework can help businesses take immediate action, quickly change course as needed, and ultimately stay relevant in the market.

Periods of crisis will always happen, but the best businesses will always adjust—and many will even emerge stronger than before. Here are five ways that the effective use of data and analytics can help your company survive and thrive in a post-Covid environment.

1. Adapt to shifting markets.

The idea of creating a go-to-market strategy, and then sticking to that plan for an entire quarter or even a year now seems wildly unrealistic. Today, priorities need to be reassessed on a weekly, daily, or even hourly basis. Take a manufacturer of consumer goods, for instance. The products that customers are buying—and even the way they are purchasing those products—have changed dramatically over the past several months.

That means you need to be as agile as possible to keep pace with those changes. Data is critical because it is now your most reliable source of truth, especially as face-to-face interactions with customers have dwindled. Organizations can use real-time data to better understand changing consumption patterns, such as which SKUs are selling in what channel or what customer segments have spending power. As a result, they can better respond to market shifts and successfully refocus their energies to capitalize on emerging opportunities.

2. Embrace open source data.

Tech behemoths like Microsoft and Amazon understand that companies in every industry are now desperately searching for the right signals and directions to guide them forward. That’s one reason why both AWS and Microsoft Azure have created open source data lakes for COVID-19 research and development. These public data lakes contain COVID-19 related datasets from various sources, covering testing and patient outcome tracking data, government policy, hospital capacity, mobility, consumer insights and economic outlook to name a few.

So why is this useful for businesses? Because, by tapping into these datasets, organizations can get better insight into which regions are starting to open up or shut down, how consumers are behaving, and how various regulations are impacting specific counties across the country. By leveraging this kind of data, businesses can quickly identify potential bottlenecks in their supply chains, for instance, and then work to better optimize their distribution networks.

3. Juggle multiple data sources

Historical data is less valuable than it has ever been. If you’re a financial institution trying to gauge the creditworthiness of a particular restaurant chain, past data on revenue growth or customer traffic is pretty much useless. That data alone is not a reliable indicator of how that restaurant will perform in the next few months or quarters. That’s why it’s important to leverage more innovative sources of data, such as social media, that can help reveal a clearer picture. For instance, up-to-the-minute social media data can present a truer picture of customer loyalty and provide a clearer indication of whether that restaurant has successfully adapted to new realities on the ground.

4. Use data to power your supply chain

As the business world races down the path of digital transformation, there is an opportunity to rethink the supply chain in a way that maximizes cost efficiencies without compromising service levels. The supply chain is traditionally very collaborative. For instance, demand planners must typically wait on input from supply planners before they can fulfil their tasks. These days, however, everyone is working remotely, which makes collaboration more difficult. That’s why solutions that can bring together analytics, forecasting and collaboration & communication in a single, integrated tool are even more critical. This kind of holistic approach can further enable fast decision making and provide increased visibility across the agile supply chain.

5. Rethink Automation to be AI – led

Opportunities for cost optimization is a recurring theme in post-Covid conversations with customer. Since AI-bots are self-learning they are much more adaptive and less costly to maintain than traditional RPA. If designed with a vision the same AI-bot can also deliver rich insights for customer experience and product innovation beyond just automation. Many organizations, for instance, are now deploying AI-powered bots in their call center operations to reduce labor-intensive processes and increase cost efficiencies. But when designed with the right features it could be a rich source of product feedback as well as NPS management—add tremendous new value to the business.  

Companies can’t afford to fly blind through the current crisis. The effective use of data and analytics can help your business navigate through the storm and come out stronger and more resilient on the other side.