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The Critical Data Lessons We Learned During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The still-ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge for us all, to be sure — but it's also brought with it its fair share of lessons that will continue to be relevant and valuable long after everything has calmed down again. This is particularly true in terms of what it has taught us about data — something that has been an essential part of the response for communities, governments and businesses everywhere.

In fact, there are five critical data lessons that we've learned during the COVID-19 pandemic in particular that are absolutely worth a closer look. 

Lesson #1: The Need for a Solid Infrastructure Has Never Been Greater

By far, one of the most important data lessons we've collectively learned during the COVID-19 pandemic has to do with why it's so critical to have a solid, trustworthy and scalable infrastructure.

Healthcare organizations saw this almost immediately as the pandemic began last year, as obviously offering data related to such a significant global health crisis will have a major impact on your website's traffic. With data sets being updated constantly, traffic volumes absolutely exploded — which is why you need an infrastructure that has built-in high availability and easy failover. 

To that end, the COVID-19 crisis particularly highlighted the importance of cloud-based solutions when compared to hardware-based ones. Not only do they offer greater scalability, but they can also absorb peaks of traffic within minutes to keep everything operating smoothly as much as possible. 

Lesson #2: You Must Have a Data-Driven Culture

Another important lesson that the pandemic has taught us involves the need to build a data-oriented culture first and foremost. Whenever some type of crisis situation arises, businesses need to be properly equipped to handle the new data challenges that it will bring with them.

In times of crisis, work needs to get done as quickly as humanly possible. Therefore, if you already have a data-driven culture of mutual trust, processes and ambassadors, you have everything you need to help your organization run as smoothly as possible.

If you don't, you'll likely be dealing with a situation where the very people within your organization may undermine your data's quality and your ability to share it, which is absolutely a situation you do not want to find yourself in. 

Lesson #3: Few Things Are More Important Than Data Quality

Along the same lines, the COVID-19 pandemic has also illustrated the importance of never, under any circumstances, taking the quality of your data for granted.

This is especially true if your organization is sharing data that will help inform emergency responses, or that will fuel recovery initiatives. You need to be able to offer essential information about A) how this data was collected, B) how often it was being collected, and C) where it was being collected from.

Thankfully, this is all easier than ever with an intelligent management solution like M-Files. M-Files can automatically add metadata to your information to give it this critical context, all so that you can be confident in the quality of your data moving forward. 

Lesson #4: It's All About That Data Context

Speaking of context, this too is essential, and it's an idea that goes far beyond simple dashboard visualizations. Think about all the people who took to the Internet in the early days of the pandemic, constantly comparing and contrasting health data from multiple countries. If you tried to compare COVID-19 health data from Italy and the United States without anything in the way of context, you're not really winding up with anything of real value at all.

Some countries were only testing cases with mild symptoms in the beginning, for example, while others still were only counting people who had been actively hospitalized. Without knowing that context, you can't be sure what you're looking at — and you can't trust the insights "derived" from that data at all.

Lesson #5: You Need to Make Your Data Shareable

Finally, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has also helped to remind us that your data is ultimately only as valuable as it is shareable. Local communities played a big role in keeping people safe during those early days of the pandemic, and they did so because they were able to communicate with and share data with the citizens who lived in those areas. They made this data available in a form that was easy to understand and easier to work with, all while making a proactive effort to respect standards and increase data quality.

Your ability to share your data doesn't just empower your users — it enhances your own business' ability to remain resilient, regardless of what life happens to throw at you. That in and of itself may very well be the most important benefit of all.

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