A Data Literacy Guide For D&A Leaders

A Data Literacy Guide For D&A Leaders

As data and analytics strategies become integral to all aspects of digital business, being data-literate — having the ability to understand, share common knowledge of and have meaningful conversations about data — can enable organizations to seamlessly adopt existing and emerging technologies. To build a data-literate workforce, chief data officers (CDOs) need to quantify and communicate the success of data literacy training by defining and tracking relevant metrics.  

“While data and analytics leaders, such as chief data officers, recognize that there is an inherent need for data-driven decision making, linking this demand to measurable business objectives and outcomes is an existing challenge,” says Alan D. Duncan, Distinguished VP Analyst, Gartner.

Gartner defines data literacy as the ability to read, write and communicate data in context, including an understanding of data sources and constructs, analytical methods and techniques applied, and the ability to describe the use case, application and resulting value.

Further, data literacy is an underlying component of digital dexterity — an employee’s ability and desire to use existing and emerging technology to drive better business outcomes. 

Poor data literacy is ranked as the second-biggest internal roadblock to the success of the CDO’s office, according to the Gartner Annual Chief Data Officer Survey. By 2023, data literacy will become essential in driving business value, demonstrated by its formal inclusion in over 80% of data and analytics strategies and change management programs. 

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Data and analytics leaders are responsible for creating the narrative for data literacy and highlighting the business value to be gained.

Begin assessing data literacy at your organization with these questions:

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To achieve the ambitious goals of D&A strategies and address the existing skill gaps, CDOs should roll out data literacy training programs. It can help them create an environment where learning D&A skills and acquiring data literacy knowledge is a part of the organizational culture.

“Uncertain business environments, the changing nature of work and acceleration of digital business technology are causing skills gaps that need to be filled by developing new skills within the workforce,” says Duncan. 

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Start by identifying the fluent and native data speakers. Look at business analysts, data stewards and architects who are able to speak data naturally and effortlessly. Also, identify skilled translators who can serve as mediators for business groups.

Second, look for areas where communication barriers result in failing to use data to its full business potential. Conduct data literacy assessments to identify gaps, and use them as a baseline.

When it comes time to teach groups about data, make sure it’s in a fun and open environment, and think outside the box for training ideas. Don’t focus solely on slides or presentations — use games, quizzes and other creative ways to teach. 

Next, try a data literacy proof-of-concept workshop in an area where language gaps exist. Have participants describe real-life common use cases as well as a use case specific to your organization. Make sure to capture lessons learned and then repeat the exercise, ensuring that participants use others’ languages. Share the lessons with other groups to raise awareness and understanding of the literacy gap.

Finally, don’t forget that data and analytics leaders and data teams must lead by example. Ensure that teams are speaking data when discussing business outcomes in meetings and other business situations. Champion data literacy and evangelize the benefits of eliminating the data literacy gap.

Employees and their managers should understand the benefits of data literacy training programs. They should have clear answers to “what’s in it for me?” and “how does the training relate to my current or future role?” 

To derive a clear and measurable value from the intended training, CDOs can:

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CDOs can look into these metrics — among others — for evaluating data literacy programs and the progress made by individual employees: 

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