But businesses seem to be looking at a standard recipe to navigate this era: start with a base of digital transformation, add layers of big data and business intelligence, infuse machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) and then mix them well for success.
This conventional recipe misses one crucial ingredient: employees.
Build Confidence With Data Literacy Training and Data Visualization Tools
According to Gartner, 80 percent of employees do not have the skills needed for their current and future roles. The number one skill lacking to create a data-driven culture and realize business benefits is data literacy, which describes the ability to read, work with, analyze and argue with data. What’s more, our Data Literacy Index found that currently just 34 percent of firms provide data literacy training and only 17 percent “significantly encourage” employees to become more comfortable with data. But I am hopeful this will change.
Gartner predicts that there will be a formal inclusion of data literacy in over 80 percent of data and analytics strategies and change management programs. I have also noticed more companies putting comprehensive data literacy programs in place to upskill their employees. For example, we work with DBS as part of its “Data Heroes” training program. It helps different teams to hone their data analytics skills by providing a training curriculum that caters to different knowledge and skill levels across the bank. The program has equipped more than 16,000 employees with data literacy skills over an 18-month period.
Companies are also adopting business intelligence tools to help employees use data visualization to digest complex information. This not only helps their daily work but also gives them more opportunities and confidence to make informed decisions based on their interpretations of data. By combining business experience and creative thinking of humans with the processing power and speed of machines, employees can uncover more actionable data which can accelerate business value.
To embark on their data literacy journey, companies can look at the free resources available provided by the Data Literacy Project. These include a “6 Step Guide to Launch a Data Literacy Initiative” as well as free learning courses that cover everything from “understanding data” to “correlation and causation” and “analytical a/b testing”.
Data Democracy Within Organizations is Needed to Encourage Data Discovery
Aside from upskilling and providing the right tools, it is also important for employees to get access to data in the first place, so they can have more opportunities to work with it. However, the reality in enterprises today is that data is not always universally available and legacy processes can make it difficult for employees to get access.
Our latest study with Accenture found few companies give their employees access to analytics tools that are appropriate to their level (18 percent) or designed for their job role (18 percent) – which limits the power of data and its analysis to a few specialists. As a result, companies may not be reaping the full benefits of their data.
Breaking data out of organizational siloes requires a top-down initiative that spans across all departments and functions. A Chief Data Officer that does not reside within the IT team can drive such change and democratize data.
However, it’s insufficient to simply make data available to employees. Management should encourage the use of it in decision-making. This requires a data literate workforce as well as a culture of sharing data-driven knowledge and techniques between employees. Then, employees will be able to extract more insights from data and confidently act on those – seeing data as a business benefit, not a burden.
Everyone Has a Part to Play for Data Literacy
The road to data literacy may sound like an arduous expedition, but the good news is that the rewards of it is worth the journey.
Companies with higher levels of data literacy stand to gain an increase in enterprise value of between three and five per cent, which translates to approximately US$320-534 million of the total market value of the business. Gartner also believes that data literacy will become an explicit and necessary driver of business value by 2023.
The solution to achieve all of that is simple: it is not technology and processes first, but people. This requires company-wide initiatives like formal data literacy training programs, providing employees with the appropriate tools to analyse data or simply the existence of a team that can clean and prepare data sets for employees to use in the first place. To make this manageable, the leadership can tip the scales gradually, by bringing additional employee groups into the data literacy fold every three to six months.
Individual employees must also take charge of their future themselves and learn how to increasingly work with and understand data, in order to promote the power of insights at the workplace. Aside from proactively upskilling themselves, they should pinpoint areas where they are struggling and can use data to support, then ask for that data to foster a data driven mindset.
Ultimately, everyone needs to work together to drive a culture of data literacy. The vast potential of a data literate workforce cannot be ignored, and businesses that have one will reap the rewards in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.