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COVID-19: Scenario planning is only as good as your data

Scenario planning needs good data

Robust scenario analysis will play a critical role as companies stabilise their immediate response to the COVID-19 outbreak and create a strategy for recovery. There are many unknowns about the future – we don’t know yet how quickly restrictions on movement and social distancing requirements will be lifted in different sectors, how long it will take for the pandemic to be brought under control, or whether the outbreak has prompted long-term changes to customers’ behaviour. The companies that will be best placed to survive this crisis will be those that have planned for different eventualities and used robust and comprehensive data to make rapid, intelligent decisions.

Scenario modelling is only as good as the data that is fed into it

If the data is incomplete, out of date, or unsound, the resulting plan will be built on sand. The challenge for companies is that collecting data for crisis management and scenario planning is very different from the ‘normal’ process. A far wider range of internal and external data is typically needed, sitting across a large number of sources, from ERP systems to emerging customer trends or new supply chain factors (i.e. extended lead times). 

This data will underpin the path to recovery

The decisions companies must make in the coming weeks will be critically important; many are running low on cash and will need to balance each step of recovering revenue against costs. This means that decisions such as when to remove employees from furlough become critical to survival. But this type of balancing act requires data that many companies will not have gathered or captured before (it simply wasn’t needed); employee sickness and absence rates, or the number of employees logging on remotely to systems daily, become far more important to decision-making. And entirely new information, such as the home circumstances of key employees, has become an influential data point.

To give an example of a business in the construction sector: management knows that once the sector is reopened, it will see a sudden surge in demand. The timing, so far, is unknown, but detailed scenario planning is helping it understand its ability to meet the wave of demand when it arrives. One critical element of that is workforce availability in the distribution chain and other key areas, so the company has asked its employees whether their circumstances – if they live with someone vulnerable, for example, or have young children at home – might affect their ability to work once restrictions begin to be lifted.   

Identifying, capturing and analysing this data requires specialist skills.

Our data experts have been busy during the crisis, applying our forensic approach to data capture to make sure that the structured and unstructured data that clients need to make intelligent decisions, from internal and external sources, is collected, verified and securely stored, but accessible. We use the latest tools and techniques to blend data sources and conduct analysis that provides valuable insight during the crisis and recovery phase.

Contact us

Umang Paw

Umang Paw

Chief Technology Officer, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7931 304666

Stuart McMeechan

Stuart McMeechan

Investigative Analytics Lead, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7483 422762

Harriet Aldridge

Harriet Aldridge

Director, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7841 568995

Steven Bewick

Steven Bewick

Partner, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7725 706095

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