In the face of COVID-19, the different styles of world leaders demonstrates the importance of informed decision making and evidenced communication as the hallmarks of respected leadership. Given the prevalence of coronavirus case analysis in the media, this pandemic has also turned the general public into statistic junkies as part of their couch commentary. No matter our station, data has proven critical to navigating this crisis.
Just as 2020 hit the fast forward button on the pace of digital transformation in many organizations, so too it has supercharged a global data journey in the short space of just a few weeks. We’ve gone from pondering what data is available to how we can automate reporting and insight. We’ve asked for details on where data comes from, through testing. We’ve debated the rules behind it, such as how non hospital deaths are counted. We’ve questioned its integrity, like the positivity rate between countries. We’ve seen countless stories of what this data can tell us from different angles and many pictures to go with it.
We’ve also seen what leaders need from their data in the face of an uncertain future, where heavy decisions have to be made, and fast: scenario simulation. Together with data scientists and academics, epidemiologists and economists have built simulation models that imagine how strategies, measures and resources will play out. Much of this research was instrumental in calling for changes from herd immunity strategies to flatten the curve, or in bringing forward lockdown measures. Scenario simulation helps us paint what different futures might look like – to plan for the worst, hope for the best and decide what to do next.
Visitor attractions find themselves in a similar situation as we prepare for reopening and beyond. As many commentators have pointed out, whether talking of an entire economy or an individual venue – the decision to shutdown – though heavy on the heart, is in a sense, the easy part. Far more challenging is working out when, how and what to reopen again. Just what reopening looks like is full of known unknowns. Front of house ramp up, rolling shutdown risk, capacity limitations, changes to activities, a lack of tourism, changing demographics, demand curves… myriad factors are at play simultaneously. Back of the envelope equations are sufficient to simply stop the bleeding and make fast and sweeping decisions that cut costs – but to align the depth of decisions for operations and spend as we move into an uncertain future, a more complex view is needed.
Scenario simulation can be approached from two directions: either paint various scenarios of assumptions and model the outcome of each, or determine the worst case or floor of various assumptions and model the range of most probable outcomes between them. As time ticks on and more information comes to light, particularly as reopening itself occurs, we can then add more color to these pictures or shift what we consider to be best, worst and most probable. Automating this with a mixture of machine learning and statistical modelling using a combination of your venue’s own data and other inputs means easier, more rapid and granular insight towards planning support and monitoring.
The benefit of time, especially during the quieter lockdown phase, enables us to thoroughly contemplate complex decision sets and pursue a more proactive, strategic plan. This might include creative options such as changes to opening hours and days, self limited capacity for workforce management or purposefully delaying reopening dates to maximize demand opportunity within the bounds of safety and the protections of financial feasibility. It also provides an extended opportunity to calmly communicate a framework to staff of what to expect and how decisions will be enacted, a valuable reprieve in such a fast moving situation.
With such an unpredictable future, there’s a lot of guesswork involved in decision making – but with scenario simulation, these can at least be educated guesses – a scientific hypothesis suggesting probable outcomes based on evidence. Just in the same way we want the leaders of our nations to make decisions by standing in the future, so too we can use simulation to pave the way in this next phase for our visitor attractions.
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