If there's one thing business owners have learned during the Covid-19 pandemic, it's that the ability to adapt and pivot is key for surviving a crisis.

Unfortunately, there's a distinct difference between pivoting and pivoting successfully. While some brands are able to pivot in a way that helps them stand out and disrupt their industry, others attempt radical changes that cause them to fall flat on their face.

So how can you determine if your key pivot, whether part of a proactive planning process, or a response to an unforeseen crisis, will be the right move for your brand?

It comes down to your ability to use your data.

Better understanding current and past trends.

As I've noted previously, data analytics is going to have the biggest impact when it is focused on your key performance indicators. Data points like retention rates and cost per customer acquisition give you clearer insights into the overall health of your company.

Breaking down specific actions, products, and services or initiatives with your top KPIs in mind will tell you which areas are current strengths, and which areas need to be re-evaluated. Looking at the data over time, you may also be able to recognize areas that were once strong contributors to your KPIs, but are now a detriment.

The ability to identify trends that have occurred gradually over time could unveil key insights about your target audience, such as changing product preferences or shifts in media consumption.

With a proactive approach, you can identify small problems before they get out of hand, and pivot appropriately to address them.

You can monitor areas of concern to be more proactive and agile.

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown just how a business's operations can be upended overnight. Yet while many are struggling, those who rely on data are finding new ways to thrive.

In fact, a report from Sisense, a business intelligence (BI) and analytics company, reveals that the pandemic has caused 50 percent of companies to increase their use of data. Seventy nine percent of businesses surveyed believed they would be able to at least "stay afloat," and possibly even grow, thanks to their use of data in a crisis.

With many businesses filing for bankruptcy, these numbers may seem overly optimistic at first. But the way these companies are using their data to focus on key areas of concern helps make a difference.

The report found that many businesses were using their data to improve operational efficiency, cut costs and optimize their sales funnel and customer support. These are all areas that have a big influence on a company's revenue and expenses, and making them a top priority through data analytics puts them into greater focus.

By continuously monitoring these areas, businesses have become better able to identify and address potential issues in real time, keeping things running (relatively) smoothly during a time of crisis.

If you have questions or concerns about a particular element of your business or industry, make it a priority in your analytics. You'll be more aware of what's going on and better equipped to enact change.

You can identify the impact of current actions in real time.

Data isn't just important while preparing for a major pivot. It can prove equally important after you've made the adjustment.

This helps you avoid the all-too-common trap of being overconfident in your decision-making abilities. For example, in a Stanford case study reported on by the Harvard Business Review, fast food chain managers came to the decision that reducing employee turnover at their locations would improve customer satisfaction and lead to higher profits.

However, an analysis of data after implementing an anti-turnover initiative revealed that employee turnover didn't affect customer satisfaction. Instead, store manager turnover was what had the biggest impact.

Using data to quickly realize that the current efforts weren't delivering results allowed for another pivot to focus on the right actions and initiatives. Continuing to use data after a decision has been made will protect you from confirmation bias and potentially lead to other, even more effective, actions.

With quality data on your side, your business will have a better understanding of how different courses of action could affect its future. The more you know about the challenges you are currently facing and the opportunities and new challenges that could grow from your pivot, the more confident you can be in your final decision.

The success of a pivot comes down to your ability to execute it. But by using your data, you can have confidence that you are moving in the right direction, acting faster and more effectively.