SHOULD YOU CARE ABOUT "DATA LITERACY"?

Updated: Feb 11


Every company today that is deemed a strong competitor in its industry has a "digital transformation" initiative. It is a digital world, and it is driven by data more so now than ever. It has impacts on our personal life as well as our professional life. We heard little about AI ten years ago, and today, everything has AI in it, to some degree.

Data literacy can be defined as the baseline of what anyone that will access data should know to use it effectively. It’s the essential understanding and abilities that every person who interacts with data has to have. Data literacy includes basic knowledge of numbers and business, as well as the ability to explain data, evaluate its soundness, and use BI tools at a fundamental level. But it also includes things like data skepticism.

One of the critical principles that Google looks for in managers is the ability to listen and obtain the perspective of everyone in their team. I venture a guess that this is because you never know where that new bit of insight will come from. The next genius idea may be born out of the perfect storm of someone's experience, life context, culture, knowledge, and perspective. Since we are paying these people, we want to make sure that if they have an idea, it comes out and must be considered.

Most organizations today have people that work with data which are data "fluent," like data engineers, analysts, scientists, etc. But what about the non-experts? What about the "citizen data analyst"? The modern BI tools today make it very easy to access and look at data and create insights, and they automate many of the tasks that require more than basic knowledge, like data preparation and the generation or suggestion of simple analyses.

We are at that point now where the tools no longer require special skills and can be deployed to more and more users. Like Google wanting to make sure all employees' ideas are considered, organizations should want that as many users as possible have access to data to help them come up with their new ideas, but that they can use it.

While all this is true, organizations today still struggle with making sure their "data experts" are able to be as efficient as possible. Next, their focus is Power Users, deploying Self-Service. But this concept of Data Literacy is gaining mindshare. A survey done by the Eckerson Group shows that 2/3 of organizations they asked believed that Data Literacy had either a high or very high impact on their financial results. Gartner predicts that by 2020, 80% of organizations “will initiate deliberate competency development in the field of data literacy, acknowledging their extreme deficiency.” Most training in data today is aimed at data professionals.

The best way to improve Data Literacy is to set up a program. Incidentally, companies that do not have a Data Literacy program (68%) at the moment cite that the top reasons are that they are too busy, there is resistance to change, and there is a lack of a data leader such as a CDO that pushes the agenda forward.

Expect to hear a lot more about this in the next 2-3 years. In the meantime, you can take a look at the Data Literacy Project and evaluate how data literate you are.

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