In the wake of a global pandemic, companies are ramping up investment in data and analytics in order to better respond to the change and uncertainty facing us in 2021.

When asked, “Which will be the top 3 game-changer technologies for your industry to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis?”, 36% of company boards placed data and analytics as top priority in 2021,  ahead of artificial intelligence (AI) in 2nd place at 24%, in a report recently released by Gartner.

At a time when the future can be hard to predict, organizations are recognizing the need for data always on tap that they can trust to make strategic decisions. 

As we witnessed in 2020, the ability for businesses to adapt and pivot virtually overnight is fundamental to maintaining growth even in the most challenging of times. Even prior to the pandemic, an undeniable shift towards data democratization has been under way. Top tech leaders are utilizing accessible, accurate data and analytics to provide the answers needed for the next wave of customer demand and drive sustainable value. 

How Organizations are Staying Competitive in 2021 with Data & Analytics: 

  1. Total Experience Strategy: The 360-Customer View

Never has accurate, timely information been more vital: in the wake of COVID-19, smart organizations are using analytics-ready customer data and AI to get individuals the answers they need, and fast. Using advancements in data quality, organizations are delivering these answers at scale. Data quality solutions at the point-of-entry respond to inputs in real-time and prevent inaccurate information from ever coming in, and customers no longer need to worry about missing out on critical and timely messages due to out-of-date and inconsistent contact details across multiple accounts. 

  1. “Hyperautomation”: Streamlining Workflows Wherever Responsible

In a time of social distancing and lockdowns, accurately uniting the customer experience across virtual and in-person touchpoints has never been more vital. From healthcare to retail, organizations are forced to look for new ways to securely and safely interact with individuals, households, third parties, and vendors, while ensuring that communication is relevant and timely to the recipient. 

But sometimes automating the customer journey means looking at streamlining internal workflows rather than customer-facing ones first. Accessible data solutions that allow teams to easily save and share repeatable workflows alleviate strain from overworked staff that – these days – are often spread out over remote locations.

  1. Anywhere Analysis: Enabling Access to Data Everywhere, Anywhere

“By 2023, data literacy will become an explicit and necessary driver of business value, demonstrated by its formal inclusion in over 80% of data and analytics strategies and change management programs. “ – Gartner Top Priorities for IT: 2021

In response to a global shift in priorities, tech leaders are looking to arm employees with insight-ready data to make informed decisions faster. But as Gartner notes, “Data literacy is not about turning everyone into a data scientist.” Employees are being empowered to utilize complex data from across the business without the need for highly specialized skills. Organizations that prioritize and enable easier access to high quality customer data in 2021 will better position themselves to adapt quicker to new opportunities.

  1. Future-Ready Infrastructure: Pave the Way for AI and Machine Learning Opportunities

When it comes to AI and machine learning (ML), the heat is on: According to Gartner, Boards of directors place data/analytics and AI as the No. 1 and No. 2 priorities in the year ahead. In the wake of the pandemic, AI and ML have proved critical for massive corporate overhaul and operational realignment when new demand patterns emerge. 

Breaking down data silos is a key component of achieving a holistic view of the customer and an essential part of building out databases primed for AI and machine learning initiatives. New modes of integrating and disseminating data are accelerating AI and ML-driven analysis, resulting in more scalable solutions with higher business impact.

The past year has disrupted the way customers and businesses alike consider and conduct their lives, and the global economy has had to adapt in unforeseen ways. But, true to form, when faced with adversity, the world has made dramatic shifts seemingly overnight and helped us all consider a different type of future. Priorities are continuously being reset, and consumers, entrepreneurs, and enterprises alike have suddenly found themselves looking at where to invest their resources in a very new way. The things we deemed important in 2019 have receded in the wake of 2020. 

In an unprecedented time, the same old strategies just won’t do. Those that are able to embrace a new wave of thinking about how to utilize data and analytics, rather than force-feed users and customers with what’s no longer working, will be the ones to thrive in a time where we’re all looking for answers.