Top tips on surviving the pandemic from NZ business leaders

To survive and thrive in today’s pandemic world, success now depends on finding the right balance between people, data and digital tools.

Webinar blog imageSome of New Zealand’s most successful business leaders recently sat down for a virtual roundtable with Data Insight’s CEO and founder Carmen Vicelich to share insights on how they are navigating their businesses through some of the most challenging times, and top tips for leveraging data and analytics to drive strong growth when uncertainty has become the norm.

Thanks to our amazing speakers:

- Astrud Burgess – General Manager Data & Marketing, ANZ
- Carolyn Luey – Chief Digital & Publishing Officer, NZME
- Caroline Atford – Head of Data Insights, SKY New Zealand
- Monica Richter – Data Insight Board Member and Ex Dun & Bradstreet Global Chief Data Officer
- Carmen Vicelich – CEO & Founder, Data Insight
- Neil Bryant – Head of Analytics, Data Insight

TOP TAKEAWAYS AND INSIGHTS

Decentralise data to support faster, more agile decision making
Data is at the top table - it’s part of every conversation. When you’re making decisions fast, now, more than ever, you need to rely on quality data and modern technology like the cloud and data visualisation platforms to ensure your decisions are robust.

Data should be accessible in a digestible format across an entire organisation. Where in the past access to company data may have been limited to analysts and business leaders and was often difficult to extract, it must be decentralised and made available to all. The world no longer waits - customer expectations are of immediacy and so this emancipation of data is a critical facilitator in empowering businesses to be agile.

For Carolyn Luey at NZME, harnessing data across every conversation has enabled the organisation to pivot to a subscription-based business and drive strong growth and momentum. By utilising data and analytics to understand which content is converting, the business has been able to make informed and timely decisions around offers, positioning and key subscription drivers. And as NZME continues to transform, data and analytics play a critical role in what this looks like moving forward.

Data Insight’s Neil Bryant noted there has been significant demand for insights and analytics, and that the challenge is how to deliver insights faster without increasing peoples’ workloads. Many business leaders face the juggle of being presented with multiple dashboards, needing the skills to interpret the information, and then prioritising next steps. One solution for this is mobile insights, which converts the information held within a dashboard into a chatbot. Artificial intelligence and machine learning can be utilised to simplify the information and present it to the user as a conversation, enabling swift and quality decisions.

Agility is paramount but have your data fundamentals in place
To be agile, decisions must be made in real time using current data. This means there’s almost no tolerance for a delay between raw data and insight. Intelligent automation tools such as robotic process automation and machine learning are great enablers of agility, but there must be data fundamentals in place. These are things like data management, metrics, and taxonomy. Ensuring the data you are creating and ingesting is quality. Providing assurance to stakeholders that there are no unethical biases and that data models are focused on diversity, equity and inclusion. Cyber security is another key data fundamental; your customers and your people need to feel confident that their data is protected.

For Data Insight CEO and founder Carmen Vicelich, the responsibility as leaders and practitioners of data has evolved. It’s not just about having the right technology and skills, the biggest responsibility is data stewardship - managing the human aspect of data. This means striking the right balance between the responsibility and trust involved with managing people’s data and being agile as the world evolves.

Don’t be afraid to experiment
The use of data platforms and technology are no longer just for big enterprises. The businesses winning in today’s landscape are those experimenting and being curious.

Data Insight board member Monica Richter, who is based in the United States, is seeing businesses working smarter and making fact-based decisions with data and analytics. It’s not just about identifying and investing in better tools, it’s also about executing with confidence. Change doesn’t happen just by talking and if there’s one thing COVID has taught us, it’s that agility matters. This is a golden opportunity; disruption like this doesn’t come along every day. Collect the data from your teams, customers and suppliers and figure out what’s working and what isn’t. Foster open channels of communication as you adapt to an ever-changing world.

For Astrud Burgess at ANZ, experimentation can also be about identifying what’s most important. Is it 80% delivered today or 100% delivered in two weeks? Sometimes 80% is enough to move a project ahead, and these are important conversations to have as business leaders.

Futureproofing is a combination pace and balance
It has been reported that COVID accelerated digital by ten years, five of which were achieved in the first eight weeks. New Zealand was unprepared for the recent lockdown and while there is no playbook for situations like this, it does highlight that businesses have to be digital, online and willing to change things. Even things that have worked well for many years

As Carmen Vicelich says, digital transformation is all about momentum and pace, but also about balance. Perhaps now is a good point in time to take stock because while the digital age was already in full swing pre-COVID, the pandemic has created opportunity for a stress test. Consider things like how your data performs during a time of tremendous disruption. Or how your business is coping with the additional pressure on skills sets, technology and processes. As Monica Richter asked, did you view COVID as an opportunity or just a set of challenges?

Embrace different ways of working
Caroline Atford from SKY New Zealand has spent six weeks in quarantine this year. And if there’s one thing this has taught her, it’s that there’s no longer such a thing as ‘normal’ (new or otherwise). The businesses that will continue to thrive are those embracing different ways of working. The measurement of success is no longer about output, it’s about impact. People don’t need to be in an office eight hours a day to excel and the best leaders are those focusing on finding what suits their people as opposed to what the business has mandated. It may be old school but still rings true today more than ever - if you look after your people, your customers will also reap the benefits.

Neil Bryant’s team has found creative ways to maintain emotional connections and relationships with colleagues through development of a virtual office. Akin to a video game, everyone has their own office space and can move around to engage with others. It’s been a fun and dynamic way to bring back the social aspect of the workplace environment while people have been based at home. The company has also created an ‘anytime, anywhere’ policy, which empowers the team to work when and where they feel most comfortable. This shift moves from a focus on what suits Data Insight to what suits the individual and is about allowing people to give their best in a manner that works for their personal, family and mental health needs.

Be human
Perhaps the topic that hit home the hardest was about embracing our humanity. Teams are all about culture, so how do you keep a culture alive when your people haven’t been in the same room in months?

Astrud Burgess talked about when ANZ brought in a psychologist to speak with the company’s leaders and realised that the pain the rest of the business was feeling was moving up the hierarchy. Leaders were taking it on in addition to their own challenges. You can listen with empathy and flex within the workspace, but that’s all leaders can be expected to do during extreme circumstances like a lockdown.

Rightly so, employees have an expectation that their companies know them – children, religion, personal needs. It’s time to think about how you connect with the individuals within your organisation and what technology and data you can use to support this. There are many tools that can be utilised to replicate culture and personal connection remotely, just like at NZME where Teams is used to facilitate non-work conversations, such as gardening and gaming. Just like a virtual water cooler.

If there’s one thing you can rely on, it’s change
Regardless of where you’re at in your digital transformation, the key is to keep going. There is no going back. We all need to simplify and automate our businesses and there are many tools and ways of doing that now. The key is to use all the tools at your disposal to remain relevant – leveraging data and smart technology to digitise workflows and automate processes, take pressure off people having to deliver every day by shifting the focus to what has the biggest impact.
But above all, create the time for digital transformation and innovation as there are long term benefits for your business and efficiencies for your people. Because if there’s one thing you can be certain of, it’s change.

Click here to view the full webinar recording.