Business as we know it, across nearly every sector, has been fundamentally changed. As governments struggle with how to best face the public health emergency of COVID-19, the private sector, too, is adjusting to this new reality.
For some organizations, this has driven innovation; for others, it has spelled disaster. What is clear is that a reliance on paper-based, manual processes is no longer viable and that the ability to collect, understand, and react quickly to new data is now more important than ever.
What does this mean for the future of business?
It means actionable data and the individuals (i.e. data scientists) who understand how to effectively and efficiently collect, manage and make sense of it will become even more mission critical to a business’s ability to thrive, not just survive, in the future. They will be essential to maintaining business continuity in areas such as customer engagement, supply chain, and security –– especially in times of crisis.
Using data to pinpoint behavior
Anytime there is a natural disaster, pandemic, emergency or even a trend that goes viral, it can cause a surge in customer demand. This can be in the form of increased questions and requests, product purchases, claim or ticket submissions, or simply increased activity on an app or website. If not prepared, it sudden influx can decimate customer service and success teams. We saw this play out for a number of businesses as the COVID pandemic spread around the globe.
This proved something we’ve known for a while but have failed to put in practice: digital tools like conversational AI can serve an important role in alleviating customer teams from the frequently asked questions and rote tasks, freeing them up to respond to more complex requests. These tools can also help keep up with demand and avoid slow response times.
Equally important, AI-driven tools can detect behavioral patterns, gaining intelligence over time to offer insight to organizations on how to build a better experience. CMOs and marketing managers will need the data infrastructure to record and make sense of customer behavior patterns, and data specialists will need to collaborate with domain experts to refine these data collection and insight tools. In short, data scientists and data engineers will be key in identifying patterns that can translate into personalized experiences for customers.
Leveraging data in supply chain continuity
As companies are forced to reconsider operational costs, data scientists can also play a role in maintaining and enhancing product continuity. COVID-19 and the shutdown of some major supply regions has exposed the need for detailed supply-chain data. Going forward, data scientists will need to collate broader trends and economic data with supply and inventory data so that companies can better anticipate supply and demand. Furthermore, being able to analyze real-time macro and hyperlocal data will be essential in creating more reliable and efficient supply chains.
Building a mature security organization
Right now, work-from-home policies are one of the best ways that organizations can keep their employees safe. At the same time, the rapid shift to remote work has created new opportunities for cybercriminals to attack those organizations.
CISOs and technical teams will need to rapidly put new cybersecurity tools into place. One of those tools will be data science, helping to automate data collection and threat detection so those teams can respond to attacks before they become an issue.
Dispelling the data science threat
Much of the recent, public discussion about data science portrays it as a threat. TV shows hypothesize that AI will take away our free will, and forecasting companies predict that automation will leave us all — even data scientists — unemployed.
While these are important policy, cultural, and ethical conversations to have, COVID-19 has shown us that there are more immediate and real threats. In the face of such threats, it is important to remember that data science is an essential, intellectual tool. Rather than a technology that will quickly be replaced by the next hot trend, it is a commitment to analytical thinking, to using existing and new sources of data in innovative ways to make informed decisions. In short, as we move towards an uncertain future, it is a resource every business leader should be using to not only protect the viability of their organizations, but also the health and security of their stakeholders.
Author: Nicholas Cifuentes