According to a new survey from analytics platform provider Sisense, businesses are leaning on analytics for business insights and efficiencies more than they did pre-COVID-19. The survey, “State of BI & Analytics Report 2020: Special COVID-19 Edition,” found that 49% of companies are using data analytics “more or much more” than before the COVID-19 crisis. Small businesses, those with 51 to 200 employees, in particular, are finding new ways to use data in response to the crisis. They lead larger enterprises in the use of analytics across every department with 68% of small businesses using analytics in operations, 56% in finance, 50% in sales, and 45% in product.

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Specifically, 55% of companies are using data to improve efficiency and rely on it to predict changes and outcomes. Forty-seven percent are using data to improve interactions with their customers. While 45% say they are using it to predict business outcomes. About a third of companies using analytics in new ways are considering moving their analytics workloads to the cloud as a result of COVID-19.

“Data-driven decision making has been a business goal for many years,” said Harry Glaser, chief business officer of Sisense, “but there is nothing like a global financial crisis to spur decisive, agile, and insightful insights to keep your business afloat. History has shown that times of crisis, whether financial, geo-political, or weather-related, advance the use of and reliance upon data and analytics.”

How data is used varies by company size, as well. Larger companies with 5,000 or more employees use analytics to improve business efficiency and reduce expenses. Small businesses are focusing on efficiency and customer support. Regardless of company size, improving efficiency, supporting customers, and predicting changes and outcomes are the three fastest-growing use cases for data and analytics.

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“[M]any small companies grew with cloud infrastructure in place,” the report said. “Additionally, they are still small enough to use a single, centralized BI [business intelligence] solution. Therefore, we see that companies ranging from 10-200 employees reported the largest usage of analytics.”

More than half of respondents said their businesses have the needed resources to support data-driven insights. Only 14% are cutting back on analytics spending, while 65% are increasing budget or maintaining spend on data analytics.

Retail, government, and media reported plans to increase investment in data analytics, while professional services, healthcare, and marketing/advertising are the least likely to increase their analytics budgets.

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Perhaps the most surprising finding is most respondents are optimistic about the future. Seventy-nine percent believe their companies will survive the COVID-19 shut down or even grow. Nearly half (46%) of respondents said they see COVID-19-related business opportunities. Healthcare, travel, government, and industrial/manufacturing companies said they are using COVID-19 as an opportunity to refocus their business models or their resource planning.

“The biggest surprise to us was the sense of optimism,” Glaser said. “The tools and technologies to manage through this crisis are accessible today, available to businesses of all sizes. This isn’t about an [artificial intelligence] AI roadmap that’s five years out. This is technology that is not out of reach. It can help save businesses, help leaders make the right decisions, and make a difference.”

About the survey

Sisense partnered with Meidata, a market research firm, to conduct the report’s research. Meidata surveyed 500 US-based data professionals and business executives across different industries and roles to understand how COVID-19 changed their outlook and the day-to-day work of BI and analytics professionals.

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