Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of hype was around analytics and business intelligence (BI). Experts predicted positive trends in BI adoption and discussed how analytics would help businesses around the world.
Then the pandemic changed the world in 2020. Just like everything else this year, analytics has been drastically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there is the silver lining in it for BI and analytics, as the pandemic accelerated the adoption of BI and analytics in 2020.
Analytics became necessary for success
In a short span of time, companies had to quickly make decisions. A few years ago, decisions to adopt analytics could take many months. In 2020, this changed in a hearbeat. For many businesses, analytics became the difference between surviving and closing down.
The adoption of data-driven approaches helped companies to quickly find inefficiencies and identify solutions to stay afloat. For companies, which were already beginning to use analytics, the pace of implementation accelerated manifold.
“Using analytics, organizations can understand their options better and track their progress as they chart a new direction. Without it, they would be flying blind,” said Dave Menninger, a data researcher from the Oregon-based firm Ventana Research.
Since the pandemic, the industry has seen a surge in demand for real-time data. Merging a bunch of Excel files to make a once in a quarter report is no longer an option. Successful companies are moving from the rear-view to the front view. They try to predict future events as accurately as possible. Looking back to yesterday doesn’t cut it anymore.
Things, such as alerts, real-time data refreshers and forecasts are becoming an important part of a company’s toolbox. Just look at how bad organizations had it when supply-chains were interrupted in the early stages of the pandemic.
Natural language processing
Another important trend within analytics has been natural language processing (NLP). For a long time, data science was the realm of a few select individuals, who mostly had a background in statistics and computer science. This year, however, businesses realized that to succeed in today’s shaky world, one needs to make analytics available to everyone and used by everyone in a company.
This demand, in turn, pushed the development of NLP capabilities in analytics to help employees without a background in data science to start getting into the data world. The introduction of AI features helps to lower the barriers to entry for analytics, it bridges the gap between skills and jobs.
Leading BI vendors introduced NLP to their platforms this year. For example, Power BI added the smart narratives feature, which allows report authors to add and tailor dynamic, interactive text narratives to reports. Power BI can automatically generate the narratives and users can see real-time explanations to their reports as they continue to slice and dice their data. Meanwhile, Tableau introduced the Explain Data tool that provides natural language explanations about data points. Qlik launched Insight Advisor Chat, their own version of NLP-based storytelling capability similar to Power BI’s smart narratives.
With 2020 ending, we don’t see COVID-19 retreating soon, at least before the world comes up with an effective and affordable vaccine for everyone. That being said, organizations will even further accelerate the implementation of analytics and business intelligence in 2021. We’re in for a ride, I recommend you buckle up.