The road to recovery: how data virtualisation can help businesses and economies stabilise post-pandemic

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This article was contributed by Alberto Pan, Chief Technical Officer at Denodo

Across the UK, things seem to be returning to some semblance of normality. Restrictions are easing, shops and restaurants are beginning to reopen, friends and families are being reunited, and children are returning to school. Yet, despite these positive steps, as we continue our journey out of lockdown, many things still remain uncertain.

A lot of industries are only just feeling the full economic effects of COVID-19. Unfortunately, some businesses will never reopen. For those that do, working practices are likely to have changed for the foreseeable; with offices unable to take on their usual capacity – due to social distancing guidelines - and some employees deciding to stay at home permanently. Add to this the fact that there could be a second winter wave of the virus, according to scientists, and it's clear that we haven't made it out of the deep end just yet.

With the ripple effect set to continue for some time, preparation will be key to survival. Business of all sectors and sizes will need to make use of the information and decision-making data that they have at their fingertips. But, in order to benefit from this information, they need to be able to access and understand it.

The data advantage

Data. Every business has it and every business needs it. Yet, there are few organisations that are able to maximise on its potential and use it to obtain key insights.

This is because, more often than not, important information is dispersed across multiple data sources within an organisation. Governments, public sector organisations and private businesses are all guilty of storing data across a network of on-premise, multi-cloud and third-party environments. And, whilst this data challenge is nothing new, the inability to access relevant and timely information during our current crisis is a real cause for concern; both in terms of our health and our economies.

For businesses, in times of uncertainty, maintaining continuity is key to survival. With many supply chains heavily impacted by factory closures, material shortages and employee absences in recent months, this has been challenging. The ability to access the right data, at the right time, could help businesses to mitigate the potential trade and staffing shortcomings associated with the current pandemic, adjusting resources as and when is needed.

However, in order to inform decision-making and make a meaningful difference, data needs to be delivered quickly and effectively. It is only then that it will help businesses currently facing the long road to recovery post-COVID-19.

Bouncing back

One technology that has taken centre stage in recent weeks for its ability to deliver critical insights is data virutalisation. By bringing together data from disparate sources across an organisation and making it readily available, it is proving a powerful weapon to all those currently trying to minimise and navigate the knock-on effects of COVID-19.

Its ability to act as a ‘unified data delivery platform' means that data virtualisation brings together data from multiple sources and creates a logical representation in the form of a logical data warehouse, a logical data lake or logical data marts. Essentially, no matter where data is stored, it can be brought together to create a complete, near real-time view in the format required by each individual user.

For businesses, this process results in unparalleled visibility. Using data portals, key decision makers are able to see exactly how production capacity and productivity may be affected at a certain location. This can help to predict when there might be a shortage of raw materials or workers, and help to inform strategic plans to counteract it. Operations can be altered and logistics can be rerouted in an effort to ensure continuity, even in the most uncertain periods. Short term, this can ease the pressure on resources and stabilise finances. Long term, this could be the difference between a business surviving and going under.

Planning ahead

Moving forward, having relevant data on hand could help at an even wider level by preventing a second outbreak – or at least mitigating its wider impact on the economy. The insights gleaned from data will enable government officials to provide the most relevant and up-to-date advice to the general public and to businesses alike. This could prove essential in terms of devising a plan to contain the number of cases and helping the economy bounce back from the initial peak.
 
No one can predict what will happen next. Whilst some progress has been made, there is still a long way to go before we are truly over the ripple effect of COVID-19. But being able to access the right data at the right time could help to give businesses the upper hand during this time of uncertainty and beyond. This is something that has been noted by all major market analysts. For instance, Gartner estimates that organisations using data virtualisation will decrease their data integration costs by 45%, predicting 60% market penetration of the technology by 2022.Through boosting visibility and providing an integrated view of all data stored throughout an organisation quickly, data virtualisation can help businesses and governments to be prepared to face whatever is around the corner.