Organizations that rely on data analysis to make decisions have a significant competitive advantage in overcoming challenges and planning for the future. And yet data access and the skills required to understand the data are, in many organizations, restricted to business intelligence teams and IT specialists.
As enterprises tap into the full potential of their data, leaders must work toward empowering employees to use data in their jobs and to increase performance—individually and as part of a team. This puts data at the heart of decision making across departments and roles and doesn’t restrict innovation to just one function. This strategic choice can foster a data culture—transcending individuals and teams while fundamentally changing an organization’s operations, mindset and identity around data.
Organizations can also instill a data culture by promoting data literacy—because in order for employees to participate in a data culture, they first need to speak the language of data. More than technical proficiency with software, data literacy encompasses the critical thinking skills required to interpret data and communicate its significance to others.
Many employees either don’t feel comfortable using data or aren’t completely prepared to use it. To best close this skills gap and encourage everyone to contribute to a data culture, organizations need executives who use and champion data, training and community programs that accommodate many learning needs and styles, benchmarks for measuring progress and support systems that encourage continuous personal development and growth.
Here’s how organizations can improve their data literacy:
Employees take direction from leaders who signal their commitment to data literacy, from sharing data insights at meetings to participating in training alongside staff. “It becomes very inspiring when you can show your organization the data and insights that you found and what you did with that information,” said Jennifer Day, vice president of customer strategy and programs at Tableau.
“It takes that leadership at the top to make a commitment to data-driven decision making in order to really instill that across the entire organization.” To develop critical thinking around data, executives might ask questions about how data supported decisions, or they may demonstrate how they used data in their strategic actions. And publicizing success stories and use cases through internal communications draws focus to how different departments use data.
This approach is “for the people who just need to solve a problem—get in and get out,” said Ravi Mistry, one of about three dozen Tableau Zen Masters, professionals selected by Tableau who are masters of the Tableau end-to-end analytics platform and now teach others how to use it.
Reference guides for digital processes and tutorials for specific tasks enable people to bridge minor gaps in knowledge, minimizing frustration and the need to interrupt someone else’s work to ask for help. In addition, forums moderated by data specialists can become indispensable roundups of solutions. Keeping it all on a single learning platform, or perhaps your company’s intranet, makes it easy for employees to look up what they need.
Performance metrics are critical indicators of how well a data literacy initiative is working. Identify which metrics need to improve as data use increases and assess progress at regular intervals to know where to tweak your training program. Having the right learning targets will improve data literacy in areas that boost business performance.
And quantifying the business value generated by data literacy programs can encourage buy-in from executives. Ultimately, collecting metrics, use cases and testimonials can help the organization show a strong correlation between higher data literacy and better business outcomes.
Enlisting data specialists like analysts to showcase the benefits of using data helps make data more accessible to novices. Mistry, the Tableau Zen Master, referred to analysts who function in this capacity as “knowledge curators” guiding their peers on how to successfully use data in their roles. “The objective is to make sure everyone has a base level of analysis that they can do,” he said.
This is a shift from traditional business intelligence models in which analysts and IT professionals collect and analyze data for the entire company. Internal data experts can also offer office hours to help employees complete specific projects, troubleshoot problems and brainstorm different ways to look at data.
What’s most effective depends on the company and its workforce: The right data literacy program will implement training, software tools and digital processes that motivate employees to continuously learn and refine their skills, while encouraging data-driven thinking as a core practice.
For more information on how you can improve data literacy throughout your organization, read these resources from Tableau:
Forrester Consulting Study: Bridging The Great Data Literacy Gap
By: Natasha Stokes
As data collection and data sharing become routine and data analysis and big data become common ideas in the news, business, government and society, it becomes more and more important for students, citizens, and readers to have some data literacy. The concept is associated with data science, which is concerned with data analysis, usually through automated means, and the interpretation and application of the results.
Data literacy is distinguished from statistical literacy since it involves understanding what data mean, including the ability to read graphs and charts as well as draw conclusions from data. Statistical literacy, on the other hand, refers to the “ability to read and interpret summary statistics in everyday media” such as graphs, tables, statements, surveys, and studies.
As guides for finding and using information, librarians lead workshops on data literacy for students and researchers, and also work on developing their own data literacy skills. A set of core competencies and contents that can be used as an adaptable common framework of reference in library instructional programs across institutions and disciplines has been proposed.
Resources created by librarians include MIT‘s Data Management and Publishing tutorial, the EDINA Research Data Management Training (MANTRA), the University of Edinburgh’s Data Library and the University of Minnesota libraries’ Data Management Course for Structural Engineers.