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Data Driven Crisis Management: Who do you trust?

This is part 2 of a 6 part series on Data Driven Crisis Management.

Data is, by definition, a record of the past. When you are in the midst of a crisis, the past may not be a reliable indicator of the present. Take the following example, which is a measure of the revenue volume for a hypothetical company:

As is typical during a crisis, the nature of the metric changes so significantly that there is little resemblance to the earlier data. Not only is the magnitude of the data vastly different, the metric is much more volatile during the crisis. Many (if not all) of your metrics will follow a similar path, meaning that you can no longer trust all of the assumptions you had before the crisis started. The projections, the expectations and the models you might have built before the crisis need to be thrown away since they no longer apply. 

It’s impossible to make decisions without being able to trust anything, so the first thing you need to do is determine what you can trust. 

This is the hardest part of crisis management, as there is no way to know the extent of what is changing, but here are some places to start looking for a foothold:

1. What has NOT changed?

It is likely that some parts of your business have not changed, and if you can identify them they are a great place to start. 

  • Even if you have fewer customers, are some customer segments remaining consistent?
  • Even if you have less traffic, are conversion rates the same? 
  • Even if your partners are struggling, are any of them still contributing?

These things which have not changed are the foundation of your business, and the foundation upon which you can build your recovery. With everything else stripped away, these are the things that are the core engine of future growth. 

2. What is still working? 

Even if part of the business has changed, it still might be working (albeit not as well as before). Identifying these working pieces is important as they can be strong indications about where opportunities might be hiding. For example, if overall transactions are down, identify which customer segments are still buying and which have stopped buying altogether. Drops are rarely the same across the board, so separating what is not working at all from what is still working is an important start.

3. Test, test, test

Since all of the rules have changed, you cannot rely on your old playbook. Before trusting that your annual promotion will be a success amidst a crisis, run a smaller but similar promotion earlier and measure the results. It’s possible that people will react differently, and knowing ahead of time will avoid wasting time and effort on initiatives that were never going to succeed in the first place due to the dynamics of the crisis. The most you test, the more you will know what to trust and the more building blocks you can rely upon.

These footholds are just building blocks, but they are reliable blocks that your recovery strategy can use to get started immediately. You don’t want to wait for everything to be fixed to build a new strategy, and building a strategy on assumptions and guesses is dangerous. These blocks are reliable pieces you can use to start to recover. 

Quote of the Day:   “One doesn’t have to play well, it’s enough to play better than your opponent.” – Siegbert Tarrasch


The Data Driven Crisis Management series