Creating value with data in the digital world

The pandemic has forced all companies to become data-led businesses.

Over the past few months, the pandemic has changed everything: the way we buy, the way we work, the way we manage our health, and our lifestyles. However, in a year defined by uncertainty, key trends have emerged that add clarity to how businesses can survive and thrive.

One trend is that the recovery continues to be uneven across industries, and some consumer segments have been more impacted than others. This trend is further reinforced by regional surges in cases, such as those in the US and Europe, and potential lockdowns in the future to combat them.

At the same time, the shift by consumers towards the use of digital technologies and the online world has been remarkable. Even complex areas like healthcare have shifted to the digital environment to the degree doctor visits are now taking place online, which is both safer and more convenient. In fact, telehealth visits increased 150% in the last week of March compared to the same timeframe in 2019, according to the CDC.

This shift is dramatic and permanent. Many studies are showing that as many as 75% of people who used digital channels for the first time during the pandemic will continue to do so. The use of digital channels is certainly not new, and business has trended in this direction for some time. However, this really signals that digital adoption has crossed the tipping point with the pandemic as the catalyst for change.

These trends make sense in the context of the pandemic and the past few months, but what do they really mean to business leaders going forward?

Pandemic impact on digital consumer image


First, consider our behavior as consumers. Increasingly today, every one of us expects a type of what we call “hyper-personalization.” Every service, every product or solution needs to be customized and contextual. It needs to be offered on the right channel at the right time, and consumers expect response and decisions in real time, whether in the online or physical world.

The expectation of hyper-personalization at scale and at the speed of the 60-second economy, has downstream impacts on all businesses. Companies need to have front, middle and back offices aligned so consumers can make quick decisions as they weigh providers for items like insurance policies, loans or even buying common consumer products.

In this model, customer experience becomes a key differentiator, whether at the front end when the right products are presented to the right customer segments via the right channel, or in the back office, which must ensure that fully digital interactions are seamless and touchless. Most businesses have been on this journey, but the pandemic has drastically accelerated the timeline to enable our companies to accomplish what we all are demanding as consumers.

Businesses are responding by investing more heavily in analytics and the cloud. Worldwide spending on cloud services grew 30% in the second quarter this year compared to the second quarter in 20191, and more than $90 billion is anticipated to be invested in AI and big data to improve customer experience by 20222.

These investments are a step in the right direction, but will only be as successful as their ability to deliver superior customer experience, improve operational resilience, optimize efficiency and build sustainable growth into their businesses. To accomplish these goals in today’s environment, companies need to consider and adopt a new framework for value creation for the data-led business.


The Data-Led Value Creation Framework

Today, data sits at the core of business transformation. Data is crucial to enable better business decisions when combined with analytics, and data is needed to apply intelligence in increasingly digital business operations.

EXL’s vision is to be an indispensable partner for data-led businesses. With our deep understanding of the industries we serve and our longstanding leadership in data and analytics, we have created a framework for data-led businesses to increase the value they create for their customers.

data pyramid image

Serving a “segment of one” requires a business to discover customers’ needs, tailor its offerings and effectively meet the customers where they are, whether via a digital or brick-and-mortar location. At the foundation of this, data plays a dual role to ensure that a company’s digital initiatives create value:

1. Delivering analytic insights from 360-degree data to enable better decisions

2. Intelligent operations, which includes embedding intelligence into processes to allow the business to deliver more personalized experiences and offerings to end customers

Each level in the pyramid framework can represent more complex and sophisticated solutions that create greater and more significant value for EXL clients.


To drive better, data-led decision making, leaders need to:

  • Modernize data architecture and enrich data across the enterprise
  • Accelerate and enhance analytics to unlock insights
  • Predict and recommend actions to drive improved outcomes

Modernizing data architecture requires cloud-enabled data management and strong governance. We support data enrichment through a combination of proprietary and third-party data. However data is enriched, the pandemic has shown that traditional data sets and legacy models are insufficient to highlighting the right path forward through an uneven recovery.

In the past, lenders might leverage a credit score to analyze prospective customers. However in 2020, the financial and physical health of consumers can quickly change. Today, companies are leveraging new data sources to track economic recovery and consumer behavior to stay agile and pivot as the pandemic creates varying economic conditions by leveraging disparate data across government and regulatory actions, new health developments, consumer behavior, and industry data and macroeconomic data.

Once data is better organized and enriched, it needs to be available across the organization to drive the precision, speed and relevance of decisions. On behalf of our clients we are able to leverage advanced analytics accelerators, such as proprietary toolkits and model libraries to quickly leverage data to generate insights. Finally, predictions and recommendations require a deep understanding of a company’s industry and customers to anticipate unmet needs.

For example, companies can now leverage a large number of high-frequency, granular, non-traditional data elements which are aggregated across government directives, COVID-19 infection and hospitalization numbers, consumer behavior (such as mobility data). By using what can be known as a “recovery indicator” or composite score of all the data relevant to consumer and AI driven models, companies can predict a range of metrics such as infection progression, spending patterns, unemployment trends and consumer confidence. These recovery indicators have been crucial for many companies to optimize marketing and new business strategies during the pandemic.


Now, consider the challenge of combining new, high frequency data streams with AI to create a more personalized customer experience. Many companies have invested in analytics, automation, cloud, and ML/AI to varying degrees. However, digital transformation only creates value when these technologies are orchestrated to improve customer experience, business outcomes and operational efficiency.

To increase the value created from digital transformation, companies must keep data at the foundation and climb the right side of the pyramid for applying intelligence to operations. This requires leaders to:

  • Integrate digital technology within the workflow using APIs, RPA, etc.
  • Transform with data/analytics/AI/ML and redesigned UX
  • Re-architect legacy processes into digital data flows

There are many examples that illustrate how the power of data and analytics is amplified when combined with digital solutions.

For example, we partnered with a UK life insurer to build an advanced platform that would both simplify and enhance the adviser’s online journey. To create this platform, EXL orchestrated our rules engine, workflow components, electronic document systems, quote engine, and life administration system. This enabled financial advisors to build bespoke policies and apply discounts, tailoring the offerings for every client.

In healthcare, service delivery to patients and members can be improved through the application of cloud computing, AI, and natural language processing (NLP). We partnered with a large benefits management firm to better medical records management through our proprietary, AI-powered EXL Xtrakto.AI™ solution that leverages NLP and deep learning capabilities to deliver significant time savings and accuracy improvements.

Companies can also leverage AI and digital to intervene with customers proactively and accelerate issue management. A large UK utility provider has implemented real-time insights surrounding all facets of the customer experience. The provider is now able to identify immediately if a customer is having a problem or outage, if they are in the process of moving homes and need to switch accounts, or if they are having payment issues.


Data is the backbone of business today, powering everything from advanced decision making to better operational intelligence.

As customers increasingly migrate to digital channels, differentiation is largely driven by the quality of the experience and the value delivered to the end customer. At the same time, the ability of a company to deliver value from digital is largely powered by how well they use their data.

In today’s volatile market, executives looking to steer their organizations to become true data-led businesses can leverage the value-creation framework to generate sustainable growth. At the same time, to succeed in this fast-moving environment, businesses need resilient partners they can trust to modernize data infrastructure and apply digital transformation strategies at scale.

Because our vision is to be that essential partner who helps organizations become a data-led business, we realize that digital transformation is not simply about automating a few steps in the process. Digital transformation needs analytics and AI at the core to improve the speed and quality of interactions with end customers.

Organization are at different parts of their journey, but a great next step for any business leader is to review data flows end to end and use their customer touchpoints as the north star.


Rohit Kapoor
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, EXL