Scheduling in the Age of COVID-19

Event postponements, cancellations, and the need for constant updates are part of the new normal where scheduling is concerned.

Major League Baseball has been part of American culture since our great-great grandparents were children. With 30 franchises and around $10 billion in annual revenue, MLB has survived two World Wars, several work stoppages, and countless innovations in technology to persist as a premier form of entertainment in the United States. Yet after months of careful planning and scheduling, it took only one weekend of games for COVID-19 to throw MLB into crisis mode after one team saw an outbreak of cases. 

No business is immune to the effects of the novel coronavirus. Event cancellations and postponements are no longer an inconvenience, they’re realities, and companies everywhere are scrambling to account for this unfortunate truth, however scheduling in such chaotic circumstances can be challenging.

This week, PredictHQ, whose stated purpose is to ‘provide event data of all kinds for all events to companies around the world,’ will announce a new category of Health Warnings that it has already been tracking for customers. These health warnings will allow business executives to see changes in events due to health concerns, which are of primary concern at this time when scheduling events.

In addition, PredictHQ will roll out a new Notifications Platform that simply provides an API so customers can plug and play all event details (changes, cancellations, reschedules, etc.) into their planning to avoid any pitfalls in scheduling staff and to make sure they have the right amount of inventory. 

“Events are catalysts for huge shifts in demand for businesses, so the postponement and cancellation of many major attended events earlier this year hit businesses hard,” said PredictHQ CEO Campbell Brown. “Many impactful events continue, such as school holidays and observances which drive incremental demand, as well as unscheduled events like severe weather and natural disasters that can drive down demand. COVID-19 has forced a rethink of so many business-as-usual strategies.

“In any given year, businesses lose billions in revenue due to not being able to forecast impact to their demand from events occuring, being cancelled or just changing at a moment’s notice. Now, add in COVID-19, a world pandemic, and companies are realizing quickly they need a more dynamic and resilient way to find and meet demand.”

With PredictHQ’s Notifications platform, companies know almost instantly when breaking, unscheduled events occur so they can respond quickly. They can update their staffing, stocking, and supply chain plans and pricing strategies immediately to capture as much of the demand as possible. 

The Notifications platform enables a broader cross section of a business to know when an impactful event is scheduled or updated, so decision makers can respond swiftly. The Notifications platform also allows companies to set up alerts with thresholds for when a cluster of impactful events is detected and will collectively spike demand in particular locations. These clusters are often made up of smaller events, which are easy to underestimate.

“Every moment matters in demand forecasting,” said Kevin Ger, VP of Revenue Management, Alaska Airlines. “Imagine finding out a couple of hours too late that say Coachella is scheduled for a different weekend in April than years past. That delay cost millions of dollars in a missed opportunity to update pricing to reflect demand. With Notifications, we won’t have to worry about this ever again for any event that impacts our business.”

Elite talked with PredictHQ CEO Brown following the announcement of the Notifications platform.

Elite: Can you describe what PredictHQ does on a regular basis?

Brown: PredictHQ is a demand intelligence company that empowers global organizations to anticipate their demand anomalies. Our systems aggregate millions of real-world events such as school holidays, health warnings, political events, sports and many more from hundreds of sources and verifies, enriches and ranks them by predicted impact. Companies can then proactively discover catalysts that impact demand, incorporating PredictHQ’s API within their forecast models.

Elite: How does an event like COVID-19 change the business for the short and long term?

Brown: COVID-19 has had an enormous impact on almost every kind of business. In the short term, many companies are focusing on reining in costs while identifying more resilient and dynamic ways to find, encourage and meet demand. In the longer term, crises like COVID-19 force businesses to innovate at a much faster rate and to embrace ideas and technologies that seemed at least a decade away. For us, we’re working with huge global companies that are unpacking and improving how they forecast demand to create a far more data-driven and robust demand.

Elite: What are the new categories of Health Warnings and how can they be applied? How could this tech be used for the healthcare industry? What other professions or businesses have shown the most interest so far?

Brown: In the current volatile environment, Health Warnings enable companies to know almost immediately when a biological hazard, epidemic or food poisoning outbreak occurs. This category can be used alongside our Community Category, which tracks all the lockdown and shelter-in-place mandates worldwide.

Moving forward, businesses can also better understand how these events impacted their demand either holistically or by specific location. This enables them to adapt faster and smarter if something like this occurs again. 

So far, the most interest has come from CPG, retail, finance, transport and travel companies, which need to be aware of the significant impact that health warnings can cause on their demand. The earlier these companies know about health warnings, the faster they can act to keep their teams and customers safe, and to update their operational plans so as to mitigate losses. In some cases, such as grocery stores or pharmacy chains, as these will often need to increase their stores to meet people’s emergency buying requirements for example.

For the HealthCare industry, PredictHQ’s verified global coverage of Health Warnings provides a unique source of trustworthy data they can act on immediately.

Elite: Can you explain the new Notifications Platform as well?

Brown: Our new Notifications platform enables users to create configurations and receive instant alerts about new events, groupings of events or changes to events that drive demand. This intelligence is already in our constantly-updated demand intelligence API so this platform is about enabling customers to quickly set up notifications, enabling them to hear about these updates instantly. Customers can set up alerts to be informed about new and changing Health Warnings in their key markets, so they can always be sure they’re acting on accurate data.

All things considered, unless we adapt, COVID-19 has made scheduling once normal and predictable events rather untenable.

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