Your Journey to Data Literacy

As anyone who’s worked with us knows, we’ve been talking for years about the importance of fostering a data driven culture. But we are not the only ones, the internet is littered with whitepapers, blogs posts and discussion boards on the topic. In fact a recent Gartner report stated that to achieve success, data and analytics leaders must “transform their enterprise by prioritising cultural change and fostering a data-driven orientation“.

If you really want your analytics strategy to succeed, you need the entire organisation on board, with each employee understanding how they contribute. Everyone needs to be Data Literate, starting with your existing workforce… but that’s easier said than done. Where do you start?

As we’re having an increasing number of conversations with our clients about data literacy, and rolling out more data literacy programmes than ever before, we thought it would be helpful to share our top tips for upskilling your organisation to achieve full Data Literacy.

Number One – Know your audience

This is one of those areas where a one size fits all approach doesn’t work. You need to think about who you want to reach, what you need them to know and how to best engage with them. Outside of a specialised analytics team, we find the audience most often falls into 3 specific areas. The do-ers, the drivers, and the consumers – and they all need something slightly different.

  • Do-ers – The report and dashboard generators. They might run standard reports, make edits to existing reports, or be responsible for designing, building and maintaining the reports and dashboards used by the business. They’ll also assess the quality of the data used to drive the reporting and will often perform ad-hoc analysis in response to questions from the business. They might be great at using Excel, but have you empowered them to take advantage of all the technology you have on offer? With these teams we recommend introducing them to the concepts of descriptive and exploratory analytics, as well as focusing on effective storytelling with data.
  • Drivers – The leaders driving your business. They want to use data to help them make better decisions. They manage teams and are responsible for their activities and outputs. They also set and review targets and strategy and are going to be the ones driving culture change. It’s so important to get your drivers on board and upskilled. Whilst they don’t need to know the technical ins and outs, they do need to understand the possibilities. They should know what benefits data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence can bring to their business. This starts with knowing how to interpret data and utilise data driven insights in their decision-making processes. They should have the ability to communicate with your analytics teams and know what to ask for. They need to know what’s possible. Using data, analytics and AI in their strategy development as well as having a Data and AI strategy. They also need to know how to run data projects and how to go about managing a data driven team.
  • Consumers – The wider workforce, who know your business best and are the drivers and do-ers of tomorrow. They need to understand your organisation’s performance and their role in it, and data is one of the ways in which you can share this. This group often need a lighter touch to get them started. They need to know what’s possible, the key terms and phrases, how to interpret data visualisations and their role in the data lifecycle.

Number Two – Remember, they’re only words

At its simplest, Data Literacy is the ability to read, understand, question, create and communicate data. Start by ensuring everyone is familiar with the key terms including data, data analytics, data science, machine learning, artificial intelligence, deep learning etc. These terms themselves can often scare people off, so it’s important to break them down, and highlight how they apply to the everyday. AI is less scary when you remind people it’s how Netflix knows what you might like to watch next and not that they’re going to have to build actual robots.

Number Three – Start with the basics

Most of us take for granted our ability to interpret words and numbers, and whether we know it or not, we digest huge amounts of data every day with ease. What’s the weather report if not a series of data visualisations? But many of us haven’t revisited our understanding of averages, bar charts, pie charts, line graphs etc. since school. A quick revision of these, in the context of your organisation’s data can make all the difference. For example, looking at your average customer spend by mean, median and mode.

Number Four – What do you want to know?

It’s easy to get caught up in the volume of data you have and the possibilities of what it might be able to tell you. It can be overwhelming and distracting. So, it’s essential that you and your teams have a clear definition of the business problem you want to address, or question that you want answered, and know what difference that answer is going to make. As a former boss of mine used to say, “take a step back, and think about what you’re trying to achieve”. A common element to almost every programme we run is a focus on making sure you have clearly defined the problem, how the data can help, and what you’ll do differently as a result. It’s a key element of any data project.

Number Five – Data projects are different

Data projects aren’t like other projects. You’re not creating a product, you’re seeking insights. Not every project management methodology suits data projects, so you’ll need to consider this. We recommend our Agile Analytics methodology that combines the best bits of Agile and CRISP-DM. Whatever the methodology, everyone needs to understand their role within a data project. At the minimum you’ll need a Project Manager, Data Scientist and a defined Data Consumer. If this is all new to you, chances are you’re the Data Consumer. You’re the person who needs a question answered by the data, and more importantly you need to know the right questions to ask to get the right answer.

Where Next?

Creating a data literate workforce is no easy task. Often those given responsibility for driving data literacy are new to it themselves. As organisations are being forced to pivot and innovate as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, data is the key to understanding where to go next. It’s something that can make or break an organisation and the move out of the office has highlighted the urgency to upskill teams in this area – you can’t just pop over to someone’s desk and ask them to explain a report anymore. Data literacy is now essential.

Want to Learn More?

Krisolis offers a range of tailored Data Literacy Programmes for organisations. They’re delivered by our experienced practitioners in a variety of synchronous and asynchronous formats including interactive workshops, live online classroom, videos and “lunch and learns”.

Contact us to set your organisation on the right path.

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @KrisolisHQ and LinkedIn for all our latest news and updates.