Survey finds 80% of data-driven businesses claim a critical advantage as COVID impact continues

Tony Hammond of Tableau

A study of more than 3,500 senior managers and IT decision makers across the UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands, has identified a divide between companies that are using data to inform decisions throughout the pandemic, and those that are not.

The YouGov survey, commissioned by Tableau, questioned business leaders of small, medium and large companies about their use of data during the pandemic, lessons learned thus far, and confidence in implementing long-term business changes.

For business leaders from data-driven companies, a majority (80%) believe they have had a critical advantage during the pandemic. These leaders are also more committed to the important role data plays in the future of their business, with a large majority (76%) planning to increase investment in data skills as they look towards 2021. What’s more, 79% confident they will ensure business decisions are supported by data. 

Meanwhile, findings show that non data-driven companies are slower to grasp the importance of data as they navigate these uncertain times, with only 29% seeing it as a critical advantage and 56% saying they will reduce or stop investment in data skills. Additionally, only 36% are confident they will ensure business decisions are supported by data. 

“This year has been an accelerant of change for businesses, ushering in an all-digital world faster than anyone could have ever imagined, and data is at the heart of this digital world,” comments Tony Hammond, VP strategy and growth EMEA, at Tableau. “In this Age of Data, our research shows that data-driven companies are seeing clear advantages and are more confident in the future of their business. As a result, they are really leaning into the power of their data. Companies that have not yet woken up to this are at risk of falling behind. But all companies, large or small, can be reassured that it’s not too late to harness the power of data – the time is now.”

When asked how being data-driven during the pandemic helped, business leaders acknowledged multiple benefits. Topping the list include: more effective communications to employees and customers (42%), the ability to make strategic business decisions faster (40%) and increased collaboration across teams for decision making and problem solving (36%).

Dr. Dirk Holbach

“We started building data skills across our business in 2013, and the pandemic has definitely seen us benefit from these capabilities,” states Dr. Dirk Holbach, corporate SVP & CSCO Laundry & Home Care for Henkel. “For example, we were able to record the entire control of our personal protective equipment within a few days, so that every plant can see how we are equipped in this regard – allowing our business to continue operating. I am convinced that we will take some good lessons with us into the future, especially when it comes to collaboration.”

Across all survey respondents, top lessons learned from the pandemic include: the need to be more agile (30%), to effectively prioritise and deliver on projects faster (26%), and the need for access to more accurate, timely and clean data (25%). 

Speaking about its data strategy, Jay Kotecha, data scientist at complete food brand Huel shares: “Our data-driven strategy is helping the business respond to consumer behaviour – enabling us to pivot and react with greater speed and clarity. It’s all about empowering the full organisation through data. Employees are exploring data from across the whole organisation and turning it into insight we can act upon, whether that’s revenue forecasts, distribution effectiveness, or marketing spend.”

Looking across Europe, findings show that just over half (56%) of business leaders consider their companies to be data-driven, while one in three (38%) believe their businesses are not. These results point to a clear opportunity for companies to harness data to support business resilience and decision making during this time. German companies take the lead with 62% saying their business is data-driven, while the UK lags with only 46% in agreement.

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