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Pandemic continues to highlight importance of analytics

Organizations with successful analytics programs have weathered the economic crisis caused by the pandemic far better than those who have not prioritized BI, according to research.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues with no certain end in sight, organizations are continuing to recognize the importance of analytics.

Now, 18 months into the pandemic, even as many organizations continue to tamp down overall spending, spending on analytics programs is on the rise, according to research by Dresner Advisory Services.

The research firm began collecting survey data at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, and throughout the remainder of 2020, more than 95% of respondents said their organizations had either frozen, reduced or left their overall budgets unchanged. Similarly, through the first nine months of 2021, about 92% said their organizations had either frozen, reduced or left their overall budgets unchanged.

During the final nine months of 2020, however, about half the respondents said their organizations increased spending for analytics programs, and similarly, just less than half said their organizations increased spending for analytics programs during the first nine months of 2021.

That means organizations are reallocating funds to invest more heavily in analytics, keeping overall spending flat, while raising spending on business intelligence initiatives.

And that, according to Howard Dresner, founder and chief research officer of Dresner Advisory Services, is evidence that a rising number of organizations recognize the importance of analytics, especially during uncertain economic times.

"Organizations, now more than ever, realize they have to get their arms around the drivers of the business, and they have to do it quickly," he said on Tuesday during the keynote address of Real Business Intelligence, a virtual conference hosted by Dresner Advisory Services. "They realize how important data is and, in some cases, reallocated budgets from other areas to data and analytics."

In fact, while spending has been decreased in other areas of the business, analytics projects themselves -- not just investments in data and analytics programs -- have been on the rise, according to the research firm.

Organizations are realizing just how important this notion of data and analytics and business intelligence and performance management are, especially during a very disruptive event like a pandemic.
Howard DresnerFounder and chief research officer, Dresner Advisory Services

Despite the pandemic, hardly any of the organizations Dresner surveyed respondents have canceled their analytics projects. About half of the organizations, whether scheduled before the start of the pandemic or after it, have moved forward without delay, about a third have delayed projects, and 15% to 20% are launching new ones.

Among those that have launched new analytics projects during the pandemic, about 15% continued to do so right at the start when local governments were issuing stay-at-home mandates and economic conditions were most uncertain. That rose to about 18% during the first half of 2021, once conditions had stabilized to some degree. And now, late in the third quarter of the year, just under a quarter are launching new analytics initiatives.

"Organizations are realizing just how important this notion of data and analytics and business intelligence and performance management are, especially during a very disruptive event like a pandemic," Dresner said.

Meanwhile, organizations are getting good value from their investments, Dresner continued. Nearly three quarters of respondents said they saw, at least, a good, clear return on their investment in analytics.

"Success with BI and analytics is success with business," Dresner said. "Business intelligence and analytics is a really good investment for your organization."

And the importance of analytics is particularly evident during uncertain economic times such as those caused by the pandemic, he continued.

Many organizations have been hurt by the pandemic. Economies came to a virtual halt at the start and some industries -- dining and hospitality, for example -- continue to suffer more than others. Enterprises lost money and, in many cases, were forced to lay off workers.

But organizations with successful analytics programs have had a far greater chance of avoiding such pitfalls.

Similarly, organizations with successful analytics programs have retained staff and avoided employee productivity declines at a far higher rate than those failing to recognize the importance of analytics, the Dresner data shows.

"Business intelligence and analytics are critical if you want to weather the storm of any disruptive event, most notably, of course, the pandemic, which we are still in the midst of right now," Dresner said.

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