Develop data literacy skills for data-driven cultures

As businesses of all sizes become more aware of the value data can bring to their operations, many are looking for ways to make their staff more data-savvy. Theo Hourmouzis, regional vice president at Snowflake, discusses how organizations can advance their data literacy capabilities.

The desire to gain greater control over data is driven by changes in the way data is used. Where once it would have remained the domain of the IT department or data analytics team, it is now accessible and used by staff in all organizations.

Essentially, effective data literacy is the ability to recognize, read, understand, create, and communicate data as information. Literacy also makes it possible to effectively apply this data to business decisions and actions.

Create a literacy program

To improve overall levels of data literacy within an organization, it is important to start with a structured program. This program should have four clear objectives which are:

Increased awareness: Many people may not have a clear vision of how they are already using data and how that use could be improved. For this reason, the first step of the program should be to raise awareness among staff at all levels and in all departments.

Better comprehension: While some people may understand the need for data-driven decision-making, many may not know exactly how it can be achieved. Take the time to ensure that all staff understand the steps required.

Enriched know-how: Once awareness and understanding have been raised, the next step is to enrich staff expertise through targeted training. This will ensure everyone has the knowledge and skills to extract as much value from the data they use in their roles.

Knowledge scaling: Once knowledge has increased for some staff, they should be encouraged to share it with other members of their teams. This can help support a data culture across the organization and lead to significant business benefits.

Drive change across the organization

For a data literacy program to be successful, it will also require organizational-wide change. This will aim to create a true data-driven culture that will guide decision-making, investments and resource allocation.

Experience shows that organizational change tends to happen slowly over a long period of time. It takes time to change attitudes and habits and modify processes and workflows to support new goals.

At the same time, technological change is happening very rapidly. New tools and capabilities can provide expanded capabilities for staff to undertake tasks that previously would not have been possible.

To ensure that organizational change happens fast enough to allow an organization to take advantage of new technologies, a structured change management program will be needed. This program should be designed to enable faster change in structures and attitudes so that all potential business benefits can be realized.

Part of the program also involves explaining to staff why the changes are necessary and how they will benefit them personally. It could be that the introduction of automation tools frees them from hours of tedious work or that new sources of data better support their planning processes.

The importance of management support

Any program designed to drive organizational change and improve data literacy must be supported by the top of the organization. Senior managers need to communicate the importance of what is being done and the benefits it will bring to the whole company.

In an increasing number of cases, the support of the executive is further strengthened by the establishment of a Data Director. The role of a Chief Data Officer is to guide all data-related activities in an organization, determine where challenges may exist, and take the necessary steps to overcome them.

By taking this approach, an organization can ensure that its data literacy levels are as high as possible and that all staff have access to the data they need to fulfill their role.

Rather than being something stored in the depths of the IT department and accessible only to a select few, data can truly become a valuable business resource used by everyone.

Dwight E. Schulz