Fundamentals of Data Literacy

Understanding data should not be reserved for the world’s analytics, data science, and engineering teams. Data is accessible to organizations and individuals alike, with more data available at our fingertips than ever before. So, how can you ensure every team member can make informed decisions using data? You can invest in organizational data literacy.

Data literacy, at its core, is the ability to read, write, and speak data. Today, concepts such as big data analytics and artificial intelligence are driving exponential changes throughout society. With this in mind, organizations are beginning to recognize the sizeable gap that exists – where they cannot effectively interpret, understand, and utilize data to achieve optimized business results.

What is Data Literacy and What Does it Mean for Organizations Today?

Companies that are navigating and addressing the data literacy gap are disrupting industries and fundamentally changing service level expectations. Those that are not are falling behind, as data is key to modern business success. With data and technology available at consumer’s fingertips, decision-makers must foster and invest in data literacy to ensure they are making informed decisions to achieve the intended business results.

However, some companies seeking to create a data-literate workforce may struggle because of their dependence on legacy systems and processes. For companies like these, transitioning and fostering a data literate workforce can be an extremely daunting process that requires a lot of work.

Data Literacy Roadmap

These 10 steps are the roadmap to get you started, with questions to ask yourself and your organization:

  1. Assess Data Literacy Status
  2. Develop a Data Literacy Strategy
  3. Secure Executive Support
  4. Identify Data Champions
  5. Invest in Data Literacy Foundations
  6. Develop a Customized Curriculum
  7. Use Data in Decision Making
  8. Provide Access to Data
  9. Hire Data Savvy Employees
  10. Integrate Data into Daily Activities

Assess Data Literacy Status

Where are you in your data literacy model? Gauge yourself and your organization by looking at three categories: Data Pride, Data Platform, and Data Prowess. Data Pride tells us how much your organization recognizes and values data. Data Platform refers to how much of the organizations data is easily accessible in a highly useable format. Finally, Data Prowess is how much the organization knows about working effectively with data. 

  • Does your organization inherently value data? 
  • What is the organizations sentiment about data? 
  • Does the organization make its data easily accessible in a highquality format? 
  • Does the organization understand and know how to work with data?  

Develop a Data Literacy Strategy

Once you have completed your assessment and understand your data literacy status, you can begin to develop a comprehensive strategy. Each strategy will be unique to your companys status and needs, but the process for development is similar and typically requires the following actions: 

  • Distinguish where you are from where you want to be. 
  • Create an actionable plan for how to get there. 
  • Align the strategic value of data and the role data literacy plays. 
  • Gather the necessary resources. 
  • Ensure the plan is achievable and executable. 

Secure Executive Support

Executives are necessary part of the equation. The top executives of any organization need to be on board and model the desired results, modeling from the top down and holding employees accountableIf your leaders on hesitant about the investment, provide them with resources to better understand the importance of data literacy and how it can change your organization. 

Identify Data Champions

Identify data champions you within your organization that are data fluentThese employees may serve as an example to others, encouraging them to experiment and implement their data more confidently. While business analysts, data stewards, and data architects are perfect for evangelizing the value of datadont limit your search to one section of your business. 

  • Who are your data champions? 
  • How can you turn these data champions into internal advocates to boost overall data literacy? 

Invest in Data Literacy Foundations

Building a foundation of data literate organization requires not only an investment in technology but in education as well. Employees should be trained on understanding data concepts, working with data, and data decisionmaking. To build your this foundation, you may consider setting up a Data University or similar function within the enterprise data organization like Airbnb or look to partner with a company that can provide assessments and training.  

Develop a Customized Curriculum

Give your employees that opportunity to practice concepts by making a data literacy curriculum that will allow them to build on their data knowledge. The curriculum should mix theoretical concepts and practical applications, helping employees understand how these skills intertwine with their role, learning style, and needs. To do this, your organization should: 

  • Create a tailored experience for each employee.  
  • Develop a mentoring program. 
  • Ensure widespread participation by tying coursework into performance reviews or incentivizing participation  

Use Data in Decision Making

When faced with any business decision, convert it into a data question and flip the decision on its head. What data insights can you bring to this business problem? An integral part of improving data literacy is working with stakeholders to make sure their decisions are insightdriven, not instinctdriven. To do this, you should: 

  • Move decision-making from instinct-driven to insight-driven. 
  • Ask yourself: are your stakeholders making decisions based off-of actual data? 
  • Leverage Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) when possible. 

Provide Access to Data

Data is constantly moving, and equipping an organization with standardized, trusted data often require heavy liftingTake time to assess your data strategy and consider investing in data governance, data quality, and master data management. Remember to consider the following: 

  • Data may move from one setting to another, so ensure proper data governance is in place. 
  • The Clean Data Initiative eBook details each of the steps in the journey that begins with data governance, incorporates data quality, and leverages master data management 

Hire Data Savvy Employees

Everyone throughout your organization should be practicing data literacy, including talent acquisition and HR. Your Human Resources recruiting team should know how to ask the right questions, gauge comfort level with data, and be able to ask direct questions in the interview process like “How have you used data in the past to make decisions? Hiring employees that are comfortable with data will automatically boost your teams ability to make informed decisions. Still, even if a candidate doesnt accept an offer at your company, you should keep track of data-literate prospects and stay in contact with them about future opportunities

Integrate Data into Daily Activites

If you can do everything in the framework laid out above, the next step is to implement these data-literate techniques into your daily activities. To be data fluent, we must make data our native language! Data is the new language of business and should be embedded into your company DNA, incorporating data practices into daily, weekly, or monthly routines. 

Putting Data Literacy Into Practice

Even with a roadmap laid out above, transitioning to a data-literate environment is a daunting process that requires a lot of work. Have more questions on where to go from here? Thats where we come in. In this eBook, we examine the fundamentals of data literacy, why itessential in todays marketplace, and take a deeper dive into the 10 steps you can take to enhance your organization. 

To continue reading, download the eBook here:

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