One year ago, the Canadian government announced a partnership with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce to establish the Business Data Lab (BDL). Recognizing Canada’s rapidly evolving business landscape, the BDL was given a mandate to advance the country’s understanding of Canadian business conditions.
Here’s what the BDL’s diverse team of experts accomplished in its first year of operations.
- New insights. Throughout 2022, the BDL produced value-added insights on Canadian business conditions for its national network of chambers of commerce, boards of trade and industry associations. Highlights include four in-depth quarterly reports based on the BDL’s analysis of Statistics Canada’s Canadian Survey on Business Conditions (CSCB), as well as developing a dashboard on Canada’s New Workplace Mobility Trends, powered by granular mobile movement data from Environics Analytics.
- Forged strong collaborations. The BDL worked closely with Statistics Canada to build Canada’s first Business Data Trust – with data governance to ensure the public’s confidence in our data use standards and disperse the value of the data curated for research purposes and the broader public benefit. The BDL also collaborated closely with chambers of commerce and boards of trade in Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg to leverage the CSBC for local analysis and storytelling.
- Led with data. The BDL curated an impressive inventory of business conditions data to power its analytical outputs. The BDL has amassed over 300 unique datasets, including a wide range of data from Statistics Canada and other government departments, open public use data sources, as well as private-sector data providers. The growing volume of data reflects the data and research priorities identified by discovery consultations held in 2022 with the Canadian Chamber Network.
- Made presentations and headlines. The BDL’s team of experts were invited to share their insights at major gatherings, including the Canadian Economics Association annual meetings, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the Canadian Statistics Advisory Council. The BDL’s analysis and work appeared throughout 2022 in national and local media.
Much more is planned for year two. While the first year focused on building the team, establishing operations, and creating new workflows and data tools, the BDL’s second year will be dedicated to deploying our data tools, expanding our product offering, and scaling their use and impact. Here are some things to look for in year two.
- Tools to gain more insight. The BDL is gearing up to launch a comprehensive suite of economic dashboards — the Canadian Business Conditions Terminal — to help businesses and their advisors track evolving business conditions and trends. Another tool is the Local Spending Tracker that will provide timely, granular insight on aggregated consumer transactions activity across Canada. Next, a Business Expectations Index will be developed to quantify where businesses think the economy is headed, for various sectors, cities and business ownership categories (such as traditionally under-represented groups). The BDL will also release a new interactive dashboard that allows users to customize their own analysis and visualizations of Statistics Canada’s CSBC data.
The BDL learned important lessons during its first year of operations. Here are several key principles that will guide the BDL’s operations next year.
- Partnerships power outcomes. The Canadian Chamber was able to move swiftly with help from great partners. By collaborating with organizations on data, analysis and storytelling, the BDL accomplished important milestones, including: its data curation strategy, developing the innovative Business Data Trust and releasing several major analytical outputs. Partnerships will continue to be an integral part of accomplishing the BDL’s objectives and strategy moving forward.
- Networks are powerful. The Canadian Chamber’s network of over 400 chambers of commerce, boards of trade and industry groups is a powerful resource. Its diverse representation and national reach helped the BDL share its data and research as a leading voice of business. The Chamber Network has been critical for the dissemination of the BDL’s analysis, such as its quarterly reports on the Canadian Survey on Business Conditions. Several big-city chambers and boards, including Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg, have championed use of the BDL’s CSBC insights to tell stories locally.
- Small businesses need help. Also noteworthy is the data challenges that small organizations face, as confirmed by the BDL’s discovery consultations. Many companies do not know what data are available, how to access them and/or have trouble converting data into actionable insights for decision-making. The need to support small organizations with their last mile data challenges through the democratization of economic data is massive, and further reinforces the importance of the BDL working through partnerships and networks.
- Businesses need actionable insights. Organizations these days are swimming in information, but still lack useful data insights. They need stories, not just statistics. That’s why the BDL’s outputs are being built to provide business leaders with information that they can act on. For example, the BDL’s Local Spending Tracker will give businesses information they need to understand local sales trends, allowing them to adjust expenditure and strategies. The Business Expectations Index will give decision-makers an advanced sense of future economic trends, enabling them to better prepare for changes in demand and competition.
- The public needs accessible insights. Finally, we’ve learned that business insights need to be accessible and understandable to be useful. The BDL’s team is skilled at analyzing and interpreting complex data, but the insights they produce must be communicated in an accessible way to the public. To do this, we use a variety of tools and formats, including infographics, charts and videos, to help make our insights relevant and engaging.
In conclusion, the BDL has made great strides in advancing the country’s understanding of Canadian business conditions this past year. Through our partnerships, data curation and analytical outputs, we’ve fast established ourselves as a valuable resource for the Canadian Chamber Network, businesses and policymakers seeking to understand Canada’s rapidly shifting business landscape. With a talented team of experts, commitment to quality, and focus on accessibility and relevance, the BDL is well-positioned to continue driving innovation and progress in the years to come.