Data analytics can play an important role in helping organizations come up with safe plans for their employees to return to the workplace, according to a data expert.

The workplace is going to look very different, with some employees continuing to work from home, said Archana Ramamoorthy, Chief Technology Officer for Workday, at recent ITWC webinar. Many organizations are working through scenarios to try to find a path forward, she said. But fragmented data located in various departments may be slowing them down.

“The crisis has shown that agility is key,” said Ramamoorthy. “There is a rare need for all parts of the organization to huddle around the same set of data for decision-making. It is forcing organizations to plan ahead in ways they haven’t done before.”

A unified data analytics system can help them adapt, plan and respond to these challenges more quickly, she said. Workday has found that relying on a “single source of truth” is the best way to evaluate how workers are coping and to plan a safe return to the office.

How analytics help you adapt at the speed of business

A Workday survey revealed that agile organizations commonly have four characteristics – they are responsive, adaptable, skilled and empowered through informed decision-making.

To achieve this, organizations need a secure system that can pull insights together in real-time from the entire enterprise, including human resources, finance and operations, said Ramamoorthy. “There is a huge need for unification to compare and contrast trends across so the organization so it can pivot as needed,” she said.

With built-in automation, the system can easily scale to respond to rapidly changing events. As well, all processes must be self-documenting, because “nothing slows down agility like documentation procedures,” she said.

Ramamoorthy recommended that the system should not rely on IT to extract the data. “One of the fastest ways to stifle organizational agility is to lock up the information business leaders and users need to inform decisions and identify opportunities for action, Ramamoorthy said. “The power of data is realized where you can plan, execute and analyze as a business user to bring your organization forward.”

Get insights that matter

After its employees transitioned to working from home, Workday began using its data analytics system to track employee well-being through a weekly survey. While most people adjusted well, some struggled, said Phil Wilburn, Workday’s Senior Director of People, Analytics and Insights. Based on the survey data, the company changed budgets and policies to provide the help employees needed. This included an extra paycheque, flexible work schedules, and home office tools like noise-canceling headphones and ergonomic chairs. “The ability to get the right insights allowed us to move very fast,” Wilburn said.

Now, Workday is using analytics to develop a spending forecast for the return to work. The company is combining survey-based data on how many employees plan to return to the workplace with factors such as office costs, additional cleaning services, personal protective equipment and the number of buildings that will open around the world. “It’s really helped with financial planning,” said Kinnari Desai, Vice President of Finance at Workday. “I did not have to spend time stitching data sets together but could focus on analysis and making decisions that have business impact.  For me, we’re seeing the benefits of the power of analytics and digital transformation”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada