Data Literacy is Key for Successful Digital Transformation

    A recently published report by analytics software company Qlik revealed that only 11 percent of employees feel confident in their digital literacy. 

    Qlik’s Data Literacy: The Upskilling Evolution report, which surveyed more than 1,200 executives and 6,000 employees, also revealed that approximately 21 percent of employees think their employers are preparing them for a data-oriented workplace and 40 percent are looking for a new role with better reskilling. Note that 78 percent are spending close to seven hours a month on learning about data.  

    “Our research shows that only one in ten employees in finance, marketing and HR teams are offered data literacy training, despite the fact that approximately 70% of these staff need these skills on an everyday basis,” said Paul Barth, Global Head of Data Literacy, Qlik.  

    Yet the survey also shows that 85% of business leaders believe that data literacy will become critical for their future. Roughly 89% say they expect their team to make data-driven decisions.

    There is certainly a disconnect between goals and results, which can make it more difficult for enterprises to remain competitive and achieve meaningful digital transformation.

    What can be done?  

    Why is Data Literacy Important for Enterprises?

    While artificial intelligence (AI) has made significant strides, there still needs to be a data-savvy workforce that understands how to use data to gain meaningful insights for effective decision making. 

    “There will never be enough data scientists to solve all of a company’s data-related problems,” said Roman Stanek, CEO, GoodData. “This is exactly why ‘data citizens’ are needed in the enterprise. The fact is that many organizations do not provide any or enough training to all employees.”  

    This is potentially an existential problem for companies. Data literacy should not just be the exclusive domain of tech experts.  

    “Business leaders need to fully embrace data and analytics by putting the right people, processes, and technologies in place to improve current manual processes and, as a result, customer experience,” said Libby Duane Adams, co-founder and chief advocacy officer, Alteryx.  “Companies that aren’t democratizing data analytics, maximizing its value, and upskilling their people to perform transformative analysis will struggle to anticipate changing customer needs, strengthen supplier networks, and be on top of logistics in order to respond quickly.”

    Also read: Bringing Data Democratization to Your Business

    How to Reskill for Digital Literacy

    Some companies will create their own courses for digital literacy. This can provide more customization for the organization’s needs. However, course development can be expensive, time consuming, and impractical for smaller enterprises.  

    The good news is that there are many affordable and free courses available. Just a quick search on YouTube will show some of the quality content available.

    But before procuring the curriculum, you need to have assessments.  

    “Don’t rely on preconceptions or assumptions about team members’ current comfort level with data literacy,” said Barth.  “There are a variety of free assessment tools in the market, such as the [Data Literacy Project], to jump start this process.”

    Hybrid learning is something else to consider. Different jobs have their own levels of data literacy. Thus, the curriculum needs to be tailored to them.  

    “An effective way to encourage widespread data literacy is to promote role-based training programs where every employee is required to have some level of data knowledge based on their role,” said Stanek. “This can be complemented by an emphasis and training on data visualization tools where employees can simplify complex information.”

    Data literacy should also become part of the culture. “Make data a part of meetings and communications and regularly ask for it from your team,” said Barth.  “But change takes time—don’t expect it to happen overnight.”

    If you have data scientists, you should enlist them in the data literacy efforts. “Look to transition existing data scientists from ‘workers’ into ‘coaches’ to bring everyone on the journey and share best practices for data,” said Duane Adams.

    Also read: Top Data Mining Tools for Enterprise 2022

    Teaching Data Literacy

    Data literacy is a huge topic that is constantly evolving. Enterprise leaders need to narrow it down and focus on those areas that have practical applications to their business. To get started there should be coverage of basic statistical concepts, including probabilities, distributions, means, variances, outliers, and bias.  

    “Data usually represents complex underlying phenomena, and it doesn’t always speak clearly,” said Chris Nicholson, data science team lead, Clipboard Health.  “And sometimes it’s useful to go over high-school math you might have forgotten.”

    Enterprises should also embrace “soft” skills. The goal is to provide the tools to help employees to transform data into actionable insights. 

    “Data storytelling hones their ability to communicate effectively to a non-technical audience,” said Barth. “And collaboration skills enable teams to share their insights and stay aligned to deliver continuous improvements.”

    Read next: How to Turn Your Business Data into Stories that Sell

    Tom Taulli
    Tom Taulli
    Tom Taulli is the author of Artificial Intelligence Basics: A Non-Technical Introduction, The Robotic Process Automation Handbook: A Guide to Implementing RPA Systems and Modern Mainframe Development: COBOL, Databases, and Next-Generation Approaches (will be published in February). He also teaches online courses for Pluralsight.

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