One of the most common issues slowing the adoption of analytics in many companies is the frequent disconnect between a company’s analytics activities and its stated strategic priorities. As a result, when new insights emerge from the analytics team, they face the risk of not driving value, which can lead to questions around the value of analytics.

As one example, consider supply chain management, an industry ripe for analytics, with self-defined goals to leverage rich data sets for more efficient operations. But as an industry, more than 90% of supply chain managers use Excel for planning and management, leaving key opportunities on the table – and more data-driven supply chains to dominate.

At CapTech, we’ve seen how key analytics capabilities, such as the ability to tackle vast data sets or develop complex forecasts for business planning, take some getting used to for everyone involved. We support such companies by mapping the various gaps between analytics and business strategy, then providing direct paths to value creation with analytics that lead to more buy-in and investment.

But what does a strategic disconnect for analytics mean in the current environment, when most business strategies have been broadly upended by COVID-19?

Take our supply chain example. Nearly every use of analytics, including crisis demand planning, intelligent sourcing, and (perhaps most urgently) customer allocation models for scarce products, suddenly could mean the difference between a successful response and a missed opportunity (or worse). This puts the spotlight on analytics leaders, their teams, and partners – especially for companies that are early in their analytics adoption.

Whether helping a company navigate hardship, or supporting immediate opportunities for growth and impact, the new data and analytics game plan must support the business’s fluid strategy in two ways:

1. Support shifting priorities. Activities include sales and performance forecasts, data-driven analyses of market needs, and advanced metrics to track new goals. In all cases, analytics can improve strategic actions by bringing new capabilities and deeper insights into the decision-making process.

2. Align to rapidly emerging business needs. Agility across data and analytics teams is critical in positioning those teams to leverage data quickly. For organizations with limited internal capabilities, flexible external partnerships could be established to turn around analytics quickly in support of the business.

As an added benefit beyond the urgency of the moment, deep impact and influence during the business’s response to COVID-19 will help analytics flourish and maximize the value and sustained adoption of analytics in the organization.

We’ve identified four specific actions that data and analytics leaders (and their business partners) can take to increase the value of analytics, to meet the business’s pressing needs right now:

Give analytics a seat at the crisis management table.

One relatively easy fix is to include analytics leaders in all strategic discussions and crisis response-related activities. Appointing a chief analytics officer in place will build a tangible bridge between executives and analyst teams. Leverage analytics resources in strategy development and advocate for metrics to track all strategic decisions.

Rapidly refine your data and analytics strategy.

Recognize the need for analytics to be extremely responsive, with short-term success top of mind. This likely will mean prioritizing speed over elegance when developing new models. In addition, evaluate the strategic planning process and its current utilization of data and analytics and forecast the impact of analytics over a short horizon.

If not in place, quickly establish an analytics council.

Regardless of the current level of analytical maturity in the company, assembling a committee of leaders into an analytics council will help define and drive analytics prioritization and execution. The council can work at either a functional, business-unit, or enterprise level, directing the activities and reviewing insights on their way to driving value.

Execute analytics projects extremely well.

Ultimately, highly relevant and effective projects, with clear results and communication, will best empower business leaders to act and build trust in the reliability of insights.

Stories are already emerging of the innovation companies are showing in their response to COVID-19. In the current crisis, we see a tremendous opportunity for data and analytics teams and leaders to establish new capabilities that accelerate the shift toward a truly data-driven culture. Leveraging data and analytics could mean the difference between a successful response and a missed opportunity (or worse).