As employees adapt to working from home, companies need transformative analytics solutions to flourish long-term
Data scientists and IT managers already face tough challenges concerning the security, accessibility, and usability of their analytics tools. Now, as social distancing forces knowledge workers to vacate office premises, millions of employees must access enterprise analytics for decision support as they carry out their responsibilities from home for the first time.
The scale of this global change is unprecedented and will leave a lasting impact on each of our personal and professional lives. But these changes also expose companies’ existing systemic flaws—and in the worst of cases, exacerbate them. As Forrester describes business conditions in the COVID-19 era, “In these conditions, pre-existing minor application design flaws, or lack of infrastructure capacity that can scale with ease, quickly become roadblocks.”
This raises not only new concerns about accessibility and performance but also about the handling of sensitive information across unsecure connections. And as the world looks to a new future where remote work is normalized, these decision-makers need long-term analytics solutions, even as they establish a workable response to the short-term COVID-19 crisis.
Now is perhaps the best time for companies to establish their long-term remote technology strategies. They must measure their strengths for remote connectivity, collaboration, analytics, and security, and uncover innate barriers to progress alongside the prevailing remote-work trend—a “new normal” across industries.
This article examples the impact of the global COVID-19 crisis on organizational analytics across four key areas: security, accessibility, usability, and business value. We’ll look at several use cases, then identify opportunities for transformation that arise with next-generation analytics solutions—in both the short and long term.
As millions of employees adjust to working from home, IT leaders face an unwieldy challenge—managing surges in external traffic on their IT infrastructures. In addition to managing company-wide remote access and maintaining collaborative digital tools, IT leaders must mitigate risk associated with a requisite flow of data to now external users and devices.
Meanwhile, team managers at all levels of the organization must develop new capacities for managing a remote workforce. As McKinsey describes, “Teams or whole business units working remotely can quickly result in confusion and a lack of clarity … That’s why establishing a structure and architecture for decision making and effective communication is key.” Business users need the right analytics tools to sustain mission-critical decision-making processes and to mitigate the risks of confusion and error that a newly disparate workforce presents.
Here, we will take a look at risks associated with four business areas—security, accessibility, usability, and business value—as users begin accessing enterprise analytics from remote locations. We will also identify the innate challenges in these areas and suggest some long-term solutions for both enterprises and their employees.
As we adjust to working from home and consider its long-term implications, “cybercriminals are seeking to exploit our thirst for information as a vector for attack,” the World Economic Forum reports. Users, who may not be aware of safe practices when outside enterprise infrastructure, present IT leaders with a new level of complexity in mitigating these risks. Still, these users need access to powerful analytics capabilities—more than ever, perhaps—to deliver on critical business goals.
These risks are most pronounced in industries like healthcare, where cyberattacks may directly affect the well-being of patients. As we will find, facilitating remote work is already straining healthcare technology functions, even as healthcare services struggle under the direct impact of a global pandemic.
Educating employees about security risks is a key weapon against cybercriminals. But companies have a responsibility to secure their own networks, and adopting technologies that make it easy for employees to comply with security requirements—even while empowering them with the solutions they need—is part of that obligation.
Newer analytics tools allow companies to bridge the gap between self-service and governance. They feature multi-tier designs that offer intuitive analytics toolsets for users and the mechanics IT leaders need to keep precious data secure. Leading solutions can deploy to thousands of users at all levels of the organization, each with individualized access to only the tools they need—and nothing that doesn’t qualify.
Users new to remote work will have a period of adjustment as they set up home offices, establish secure and reliable connections, and ensure they have the tools they need to succeed. “Most employees who have the option to work remotely are handling it well,” Forrester confirms. But employees don’t expect to do all the heavy lifting alone: “employees are increasingly confident that their organizations will support them with the flexibility they need to deal with the crisis.”
Unfortunately, most companies already struggle with analytics accessibility issues. Already, siloed data and impractical tools prevent successful collaboration, making scaling analytics operations impossible and robbing companies of the business value analytics should provide.
Companies have an existing obligation to empower employees with simple and secure access to analytics applications—not just to endure a crisis but also for their own enduring success. Connecting users with “a single, digitally accessible source of information—be it a performance dashboard, sprint backlog, or business plan—keeps everybody aligned,” as McKinsey describes.
Users must continue to collaborate, share information, manage processes, and co-create—even without on-premises access to resources and their teams. But the original precedence for transformative solutions remains in place, even during a crisis. Companies must therefore look at usability not as a matter of maintaining the status quo but as one of transformation and optimization in a new business environment.
Leading analytics solutions feature usability that takes remote activity into account as a default. Managed analytics platforms allow companies to identify and overcome key pain points associated with this new business environment, even as they identify opportunities to exceed normal levels of user performance. That means not only improving how users access critical analytics features but also enriching their experiences and results in the process.
Even as companies focus on keeping users connected, they must continue to hold teams accountable and drive business outcomes. They must prioritize an inclusive decision-making hierarchy, even when togetherness and peer-to-peer interactions become difficult. They must continue to meet the individual needs of workers, even as those workers’ individual pain points become less forthcoming.
The right analytics tools create consistent experiences for users, no matter their individual requirements. They ensure data is easy to understand and contributes successfully to group decision-making processes. Best of all, they bring entire analytics workflows onto a single platform, creating a common environment where everyone is involved in the decision lifecycle, in their own capacities—even from remote locations.
These pain points and solutions apply to nearly every industry. But a closer look at individual industries can tell us a great deal about the real-world implications of the new business world. Next, we’ll look at two different industries—healthcare and financial services—to understand these changes.
Hospitals are on the front lines in the battle against COVID-19. But like organizations in any industry, they require analytics and IT capabilities to maintain compliance and ensure positive patient outcomes. In this way, there are several areas where analytics plays a critical role in decision-making.
As the Wall Street Journal observed in March 2020, healthcare organizations are fighting an invisible battle against security risks and decision support crises as they adapt to remote work. “Medical providers’ information-technology employees have their hands full: Much of the support staff is working remotely, making it more difficult to keep them safe online,” the Journal reports. “They won’t have the same visibility into personal machines as they would into company devices on a corporate network … and they can’t necessarily enforce a hospital’s cybersecurity policies in the same way.”
There are long-term implications—and opportunities—given these circumstances. First, healthcare leaders must acknowledge a future where new pandemics could force them to close office doors, necessitating a long-term remote-working solution. Fortunately, comprehensive analytics solutions allow critical users to continue monitoring compliance, coordinating patient care, and tracking patient outcomes in a secure and successful way.
Financial services companies are perhaps more traditional from a business standpoint, but they also rely heavily on analytics for critical business functions. What’s more, they hold a commodity more valuable than assets in other industries—customer financial data. Optimizing service while maintaining security and compliance are pitfalls in historical contexts, now coming to the forefront in a post-COVID-19 financial services environment.
Users must maintain access to the capabilities that help them act on core initiatives, automate labor-intensive analytics processes, and deliver financial products optimized for individual customers. They must accommodate users at all levels of the organization, even while governing their access and centralizing mission-critical data. Leading analytics solutions enable financial services firms to do this, no matter where their users sit.
In early 2020, we highlighted a universal point: New analytics initiatives require strategic direction and an organization roadmap for adoption and success. A company’s advanced analytics goals should reflect the company’s broader aims, allowing it to amplify its most profitable products, services, and processes.
The global pandemic did not create a precedence for analytics transformation. Even before the crisis, most global enterprises planned to increase their analytics spending, and companies with the most employees were the most enthusiastic about this change.
“For too long, many organizations in the industries suffering today have been navel-gazing at their own data with little interest or ability to ingest the vast array of external data available,” says Forbes. As disruption forces employees to change their habits, companies must adopt an attitude of disruption themselves: “there is no excuse for ignoring the wide range of global economic factors and their impact on your business.”
As companies realign their operations with long-term business goals, they must look to a new kind of governed, managed analytics platform—one that preserves self-service, even from remote locations. Pyramid Analytics delivers practical, secure, democratized access to data for users at all levels of the organization, no matter where they choose to work. Contact us to learn more.