6 min read

Kristin Adderson
December 7, 2020 – 3:59pm

December 7, 2020

Especially after the long bumpy ride we have all been on since the start of 2020, and that we continue to live through the pandemic, can businesses really be optimistic about their future health? It can be particularly tough for businesses in Asia Pacific & Japan (APJ) who have been weathering this storm the longest. The chain of events triggered by the public health pandemic that dealt shockwaves like we’ve never seen are still reverberating today.

But as we approach the end of the year, APJ is finally on a slow path of recovery, even though progress is uneven across markets. Business leaders can now apply learnings from the first phase of the pandemic to get a better grip on their business, but the predominant sentiment remains one of caution. With reports of new waves of infections disrupting economic recovery, the future remains uncertain.

Still, there are business leaders who are feeling optimistic about the next six months – those from data-driven organisations. Many of whom have been encouraged by the critical advantages that data has brought about for their organisation during the pandemic, empowering them to come out of the crisis better than others. 

Being data-driven fuels optimism for the future

More data-driven companies (63%) are optimistic about the future health of their business in the next six months than non data-driven companies (37%). This is the most notable finding we uncovered in a recent study conducted in conjunction with YouGov, which surveyed more than 2,500 medium level managers or higher and IT decision makers across four markets in Asia Pacific (Singapore, Australia, India and Japan). 

Business leaders across various industries were questioned about their use of data during the pandemic, lessons learnt and confidence in the future health of their organisation. Overwhelmingly, we found that data-driven organisations are more resilient and confident during the pandemic, and this is what fuels the optimism for the future health of their business. 82 percent of data-driven companies in APJ have reported critical business advantages during the pandemic. The findings show multiple and vast benefits when organisations tap on data: 
●    being able to make strategic business decisions faster (54%)
●    more effective communication with stakeholders (54%)
●    increased cross-team collaboration (51%) and 
●    making their business more agile (46%)

Bank Mandiri, one of the leading financial institutions in Indonesia, is a great example of such data-driven organisations. Data enabled the bank to quickly gain visibility on the evolving situation, and respond in accordance to ensure business continuity for its customers. 

At the height of the pandemic when many of its customers began facing cash flow problems, the bank tapped into data sources, built data squads and created key dashboards focused on real-time liquidity monitoring and a law restructuring programme, all within a matter of 48 hours. The Tableau solution allowed Bank Mandiri to increase flexibility in their operations, and customers’ suitability for their new loan restructuring program. In doing so, they could ensure that customers still carry out their financial transactions and receive support on their financial and loan repayment needs.

What is troubling is that across the region, there remains a disconnect in how businesses value and use data. In contrast to organisations like Bank Mandiri, only 39% of non data-driven companies recognise data as a critical advantage. This is in spite of how the pandemic has further asserted the role of data in society today, and as we enter the era of analytics ubiquity. 

In the coming year, the use of data will set companies even further apart. A strong data culture is no longer a nice-to-have, but rather a must-have for organisations. There needs to be a mindset shift in non data-driven organisations, where they need to get all hands on data.

Explore the full dashboard here.

Investment in data skills key to gaining competitive advantage

One of the fundamental areas of focus for organisations during the pandemic is retaining and investing in its people. On this front, data-driven companies are again leading the charge – 82 percent of them eager to increase or continue their existing level of data skills investment in employees over the next six months. 

Worryingly, 32 percent of non-data driven organisations have opted to either reduce or not invest in data skills at all. These non data-driven companies are at high risk of being at a disadvantage. At this critical time when it is a necessity for organisations to remain agile and adaptable, employees must have the requisite data skills to make both strategic and tactical decisions backed by insights, to future-proof their organisation for the challenges that lie ahead. 

Take Zuellig Pharma, for instance. As one of the largest healthcare service providers in the region, Zuellig is deeply committed to investing in data skills training for its employees – through various programmes such as Tableau and automation training, as well as self-directed learning on its online Academy. These efforts have paid off well during the pandemic – exemplified by a critical mass of people within the organisation who embeds data practices and assets into everyday business processes. Instead of relying on the analytics team, even ground level staff such as warehouse operators have the competency to review and analyse data through Tableau and understand how warehouse processes map against business goals. An empowered workforce gives the organisation more confidence in planning, preparing and overcoming new operational challenges brought about by the pandemic. 

Aside from investing in data skills, business leaders must also look into developing a more holistic data strategy as they increasingly incorporate data in their business processes. The survey found that the other top lessons learnt from the pandemic include the need for better data quality (46%), data transparency (43%), followed by the need for agility (41%). Organisations must take these into consideration as they plan for the year ahead. 

Building business resilience with data analytics, starting now

With uneven recovery and prevailing uncertainty across the region, it is more important than ever for business leaders to build operational resilience and business agility with data insights. For leaders who worry that they have yet to establish a data-driven organisation, it is never too late to embark on the data journey – and the best time to act is now. 

The truth is, becoming a data-driven organisation does not require dramatic changes right off the bat. Business leaders can start by taking action with data that already sits within the organisation, and empower its workforce with the necessary data skills and tools. Over time, these steps can set off a chain reaction and culminate in communities centered around making data-first decisions, which can contribute to the larger cultural shift and better business outcomes. 

Looking externally, other data-driven organisations like ZALORA can also offer inspiration and lessons on how to drive organisational transformation with data. Even amidst a difficult time like a global pandemic, data has provided the means for the company to diversify its product offerings and unlock new revenue streams. Earlier this year, it introduced TRENDER, an embedded analytics solution, to provide brand partners on its platform with real-time insights and trends on sales performance. Data has helped ZALORA to provide value-added solutions for its brand partners, and stay relevant and competitive in the retail scene. 

Find out more about our YouGov research and how to get started on your data journey here.