A year that began so positively, with the ring of the future everywhere we looked, fell apart in dramatic fashion barely three months in.
But with hope on the horizon in the form of vaccines and Christmas almost upon us, it’s time to shake off the gloom and look back at the data highlights and lowlights of the year. And we promise to avoid using the C-word wherever possible…
Working from home actually works
Working from home has always been a thorny subject. Generally, employees want it and employers don’t. But with many companies left with no choice, it’s been interesting to see – for the most part – how well it seems to have worked.
It’s been much easier for those companies who were already set up with a reliable and secure VPN, the right equipment for staff and a company culture that helps teams stay connected.
However, if your teams were forced to use their own laptops and find their own ways of sending data to colleagues, suppliers and clients, then you were open to abuse, misuse and data breaches (more on that to come).
It’s also shifted how people structure their days. It’s unlikely that everyone has adhered to a strict nine-to-five, but will have found working patterns that suit their conflicting requirements. It’s also put a strain on broadband across the world, but for something that would have been unimaginable a year ago, things seems to have gone well.
Just be careful not to get hit with making ten months’ worth of tea rounds when you finally get back into the office.
Data breaches rocket in 2020
2020 also proved to be the year of the data breach. Twitter, Easy Jet and Marriot all fell foul of hackers in 2020 as well as thousands of smaller incidents.
One significant reason was that millions of us packed up belongings from the office, picked our laptops and went home. While some companies were prepared for this and had sufficient security protocols in place, many others didn’t. A mix of insecure working environments, unsecured networks and copying and emailing of confidential data gave rise to a huge spike in breaches.
Secondly, with not much else to do, consumers spent vastly more time online and were increasingly likely to fall for phishing scams and malware attacks.
Hackers took advantage of the world jumping onto Zoom. Relying on the fact that many people tend to reuse login in details across numerous sites, details previously stolen in breaches from other sites were tested on Zoom in a ‘credential stuffing’ exercise. As a result, half a million Zoom login details were confirmed and quickly put up for sale on the dark web.
Data hit the headlines
Data came into its own in 2020.
Night after night, we watched serious looking experts present powerpoint slides on prime time TV. People who hadn’t looked at a graph or chart since leaving school became hooked on R rates, flattening curves and sudden spikes.
Initiatives such as Track and Trace and the NHS app, although not perfect, gathered data at a rate which would have been unthinkable just a decade ago.
We also saw the rise of ‘citizen science’, where the general public contribute their data as part of a much wider piece of research. The launch of the ZOE app was a fantastic concept that helped to gather data on the impact of Covid-19. Within twenty four hours over a million people had signed up and the app was one of the first studies to identify loss of taste as a symptom.
For this year at least, the scientists and data analysts have become the new heroes.
UK Government still using old software packages
Having said all that, it’s not all been rosy. If you’re serious about your data, you need to keep your hardware and software up to date. Unless, possibly, you’re the UK Government.
In October, we learned that thousands of positive Covid results had gone missing. The reason? Public Health England were still using an outdated version of Excel, which had a maximum of 65,000 rows. So any cases over that number were simply lopped off the reports.
It’s 13 years since Microsoft Excel XLS was superseded by XLSX – which can handle over a million rows – so it’s fair to say that someone in Downing Street wasn’t updating their software as often as they should.
The need to understand your new customer behaviour
We’ll leave you with one more thought as we exit the year. With all that’s happened this year, you’re going to have to re-evaluate everything you thought about your customers.
Customers are radically changing their spending habits, due not only to changes in finances and nervousness about the future, but also as they determine which customers they trust to provide the service they need. Changes in deliveries, delays to refunds, availability of stock, ease of changes to bookings have all combined to change perceptions of companies in every sector.
Take travel for example. Which of your previously regular customers are now averse to travelling? Which ones had to wait for refunds? And who’s happy to travel but simply waiting for a bargain to come up for a far flung location?
The chaos of the last year means that previous behaviour is no longer a reliable predictor of future intent. So you’ll need to change your models to identify those who are most likely to rebook, to lapse and so on.
You’ll need to re-engage with some customers, win them back and hold on to the most valuable ones. Ensure that your database is populated with real-time, accurate data that gives you insight into each customer. If you need help unlocking the value hidden in your data, then take a look at our ‘Meet Your Customers‘ project, a powerful piece of analysis that can show you where the true value and opportunities lie.
And remember, if data is your thing as much as it ours, then we’re always happy to have a chat.