Circle Insights

Why Data Literacy is a must-have for your Data Strategy

Luke Hardy

For most organisations collecting, processing and managing huge volumes of data, there is a looming question: “what next?”

Now we have the data, how do we put it to good use?

The first requirement when you’re looking to make the most out of your data, is to ensure your users are educated and empowered to understand and interpret that data.

Here’s where data literacy comes in…

What is data literacy?

Data literacy is defined as the ability to read, work with, analyse and communicate data in context. When both business leaders and employees are data literate, they are empowered to ask the right questions, build knowledge, communicate meaning to others and make better decisions.

It has become critical for everyone in an organisation, not just data scientists and analysts, to have access to and basic knowledge of reading and interpreting data. Staff are then able to combine their own expertise with these data literacy skills to gather insights that produce more accurate and tangible business outcomes.

Why is data literacy important?

It is predicted that by 2025 there will be a ten-fold increase in worldwide data. For data-driven organisations, this will generate a need for more data literate employees that are able to inject intelligent insights from data, back into the business. These insights can be used support goals such as service delivery improvements or keeping the edge over the competition.

Organisations that lack in sufficient data literacy skills should be looking include developing data literacy competencies as part of their data strategy, and those who don’t will risk creating a roadblock to success and inhibit future business growth.

Jordan Morrow, Global Head of Data Literacy at Qlik, made the argument in his 2019 TEDx Talk that everyone should be data literate. Referring to the now well-known phrase that “data is the new oil”, he made the case that “data is a valuable asset, and just like oil, it has to go through people and refinement to get value”.

If data cannot create success without people using it effectively, then it stands to reason that technology and training must be treated with equal importance.

Technology vs. Competency

Organisations regularly establish a need for a technology-based solution in order to facilitate or achieve a goal. This can often require a significant investment both for the initial implementation and the ongoing service (licensing etc.). While any costs should be justified by the business requirements and value the technology can bring to the business, data analytics solutions are only as useful as the insight that can be derived from them. These insights prove extremely hard to extract if the technology is not underpinned by a data literate organisation. However, when an analytics solution and education of the workforce is delivered hand in hand, the organisation is in a much stronger position to unlock the best opportunities from data.

There is of course the alternative, whereby an organisation may choose to externally recruit new highly skilled and data literate employees. The challenge presented here is that those recruits may hard to find and require an additional investment from the business. By instead choosing to train existing staff and developing in-house teams, the organisation is more likely to see a better return on investment.

Do I speak data?

As businesses begin to democratise their data to allow the end user increased access to information, it becomes more important that the information shared allows for effective decision making and is easily understood by all who absorb it.

While it may be widely accepted that there is a business value to be gained from data literacy, an assessment on how data literate the organisation is in its current state will help inform the best path to improvement.

Barriers can be caused by lack of communication, skills or knowledge, meaning that data is not being used to it’s maximum potential. Through this assessment, those barriers can be identified and eliminated.

Such gaps might include:

  • A struggle to identify trends and anomalies
  • Lack of understanding of the difference between reporting and analysis
  • Unsure on what to produce to meet requirements
  • Overwhelmed by data and unsure which data is relevant

Often, organisations might be part of the way through a data strategy through adoption of technology or recruitment of analysts and wonder why they have hit a wall where little seems to have actually changed. Data has been processed, reports have been produced and so on the surface it looks as though the work has been done to facilitate new insights. Stakeholders may be drowning in reports, and yet remain disappointed on the lack of insights or improvements obtained from the data.

The answer may lie in how data literate the organisation is. A key component in determining what is valuable and meaningful comes from data literacy skills. The ability to ask and answer the right questions from your data, not just visualise the results, but visualise them in a way that can be shared and understood.

By answering the points above, you should start to get a clearer view on where your organisation is in its data journey.

What next?

Once an assessment of the organisation has been completed and gaps identified, we return to our original question: what next?
Sourcing an external provider to deliver data literacy training courses can be the first step towards a more data literate workforce.
Whether your organisation is looking to make better use of an existing data analytics solution through better informed insights, or just at the beginning of your data journey, CACI can help.

Our tailored training courses are delivered as interactive workshops by our Business Insight skilled instructors. Supporting material will provide continued informative guidance for staff to actively implement new skills, and data literacy “Personal Training” sessions help go the extra mile towards becoming a data-driven organisation.

Find out more about how CACI can help your organisation become data literate.

Contact us now
Luke Hardy