Data Literacy – The skill growing enterprises must watch out for!

Data is a resource present in abundance but used in scarcity. The data resource, second in importance only to people in an organization, lies unused – or under-utilized at best – because business leaders lack the ability to analyze and transform it into actionable information. 

Now, this is not to say that all companies cannot handle data – there are companies that do understand and utilize it optimally based on data analytics.  For example, in a study conducted by Mckinsey & Company, the report suggested that analytics-driven businesses acquired 23 times more customers than those that didn’t use data. 

Point: To achieve such results, data literacy is an absolute must.

Need For A Data Literate Workforce

A positive sign is the rising adoption of technologies like analytics, AI, and IoT by enterprises across the world. These technologies being dependent on data to thrive, it becomes imperative to have a data-literate workforce to extract the most value out of them. 

However

Most businesses find it hard to build a data-literate workforce. That’s because making sense of data, which is often generated in the form of statistical tables and graphs, can be challenging for multiple reasons.

Why it can be difficult to make sense of data

Reason one: The sheer volume of data generated is a mammoth task for any analyst to handle. Data comes in from multiple sources, and people are not trained to know what to look for and what to ignore. They are forced to overlook certain parts of the data. Parts that might be important.

Result: Directionless effort yielding no results, or worse, the wrong results. This is due to over-reliance on intuitive rather than fact-based thinking.

Of Data in Silos

People interpret information in different ways. Understanding statistics in silos means there are multiple conclusions on how a given set of information is relevant to, and valuable to an enterprise, a function, or a case at hand. Furthermore, people do not understand how statistical values, for example, mean, median, and mode, are interpreted and applied under different circumstances. 

Result: Erratic decisions prevail, due to a lack of data literacy.

Fostering data literacy

It is paramount for business leaders to foster digital literacy within the organizational framework to ensure that the right decisions are made, always. So what’s the key ingredient to building a data literate culture? Answer: A multi-faceted approach that goes beyond just educating employees. Businesses need to update their policies and technology to augment their move toward data literacy. Some of the ways they can do it are as follows:

Promoting data-driven practices

The entire workforce should be able to use data to make decisions, not just the analysts. Business users especially should be daft at interacting with data, since they are at the forefront of critical decision-making.

How to do so? Make data literacy the default state of being. In other words, each employee should know well enough that ‘’This is the way we do things around here.” Demonstrate instead of theorizing. Have special teams, or experts, to provide a manual on how to complete the cycle of data literacy, end-to-end.

Making data available and accessible

Total data literacy demands that you make data available to all employees. However, in the interest of safety and efficiency, only data relevant to an employee and their function must be shared. This also prevents information overload. 

The next step: Focus on the quality of the medium through which you are making the data accessible. Figure out easily consumable formats and adopt them. Remember, no one will take pains to adopt new initiatives such as pure data-focused practices, so you have to make it easy for them. However, once adopted, the results are exponentially better than before. 

Delivering data in natural language

The use of language in dashboards is perhaps the most effective format of distributing data. Businesses are using natural language generation (NLG) – advanced AI-technology to deliver data to their workforce. NLG-based tools make information on dashboards and reports easy to grasp and to make sense out of. Natural, conversational narratives make data understanding, analysis, and decision-making extremely simple. 

Natural language generation tools help businesses convert large datasets into digestible reports.  These reports are highly personalized, scalable, and shareable, so each individual in an organization receives exactly what s/he wants to know about, increasing performance and reducing the overwhelming burden that data can sometimes place on an individual.

An Option? 

Achieving data literacy has, arguably, gone from being an option to a necessity. At least for smart, progressive enterprises, there is no debate. Growing enterprises, thus, must accelerate their efforts to make all their employees data-literate. Doing so will ensure that two of their most critical resources — their people and data — can be used to their full potential.