Data insights are a critical element to success and businesses strive to use what they’ve learned Despite it still being a struggle—90% of data and analytics decision makers see increasing the use of data insights in business decision making as a priority, according to a Forrester report, “Data Literacy Matters: The Writing’s On The Wall.

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“Organizations need to invest in data literacy, and by that we don’t mean just improving the skills of business analysts or data scientists,” said Forrester principal analyst Jennifer Belissent, who wrote the report.

“Data literacy programs must start with basic skills and general awareness of what is data today, how it can be used, the value that it brings to the organization, and their role in collecting and protecting it. That’s the only way to ensure that everyone in the organization is doing their part,” Belissent added.
Forrester’s research revealed that most organizations are not ready for automation:

  • Only 21% of global information workers know when to question the results of an automated technology.
  • Only 19% agree with self-assessment statements on organizational readiness.
  • Only 22% agree with self-assessment statements concerning whether their leaders are ready.

Skills should match available tools

Data availability and tools are at the ready, and, as the report revealed, data literacy is “certainly in vogue,” but there’s a lack of skills to use the tools and the data to drive business outcomes. The Forrester report showcases how companies are creating data-literacy programs to bridge this gap.

But improving data insights in decision making is challenging for organizations, reports 91% of business leaders.

How businesses can shift to true readiness

The report offered suggestions for businesses to prepare:

  • Start with the basics to overcome resistance to AI and automation. Early AI adoption is about “a blended human and digital workforce that share decisions as well as tasks.”
  • When it comes to data literacy, leave no employee behind. Focus on anyone who works with data and analytics, which is pretty much everyone.

Key takeaways, according to the report

  1. Data literacy is a requirement to become insight-driven. With investments in data tools, organizations have “democratized” data. But giving people access doesn’t mean they know how to use it. Books are just doorstops unless you know how to read.
  2. Programs need structure and support. Most training originates within data and analytics teams and focuses on the use of tools. data-literacy programs must be comprehensive, company wide efforts with executive support, strategic goals, and established metrics.
  3. Curricula addresses everyone. Program goals include basic data awareness, deeper understanding of insights, continued training of experts, and scaling skills across the organization, and you must measure these goals on business impact.

Companies are investing in data and analytics tools

  • 90% of global data and analytics decision makers see increasing the use of data insights in business decision making as a priority.
  • 62% of survey respondents have implemented or are expanding the use of reports and dashboards
  • 57% have embedded analytics in apps and processes.
  • There has been a 200% increase in venture capital funding for data marketplaces in the past two years.

Push for data literacy needs to be accelerated

Most business leaders still rely on experience, gut feeling, or opinions when making decisions.
Forrester Analytics’ survey data shows that, on average, companies make only 48% of decisions based on quantitative information and analysis—a number that hasn’t moved much in years. A lack of skills at all levels impedes transformation into an insights-driven organization.

New literacy programs need to start with the following key elements:

  • Strong data and analytics leadership
  • A clear organizational mandate and staffing
  • Robust metrics to measure program impact
  • A rich and varied engagement model
  • Role- and maturity-based curriculum

The data literacy curriculum must target the entire organization. According to the report: “Everyone is a data creator: when they send emails, when they walk into the building under video surveillance, and when they capture information about a customer or another employee. Not all employees understand that.” Beyond awareness, data literacy increases comprehension and expertise. Programs must address the needs of executives and other decision makers, practitioners and professionals, business analysts and data experts.

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Business owners need to rally employees

Employees who don’t work with data feel insecure and alienated, but those who do work with data worry about data quality—and human error. Data specialists worry about an evolving landscape facing data and analytics. Data literacy makes an employee feel a part of the company, and imparts a sense of reliability, but employees who don’t work regularly with data feel under qualified and irrelevant.

Executives are not being proactive enough

Change at the executive level has stalled. According to the Forrester report, “In 2019, over half (55%) of global data and analytics decision makers reported that their organizations had initiatives to change their management culture to rely more on quantitative decisions rather than gut instinct or experience; that figure hasn’t changed over the past few years.” What’s holding them back? According to the report, many leaders have limited access to data, or they don’t trust the information they have, and their employees don’t always trust how they’ll use it.

Mature organizations use experts to scale literacy programs and create communities. Data-literacy programs require community building, peer engagement and mentorships, external engagement, and storytelling.

And within the company, the survey reported that businesses must develop a companywide, role-based data-literacy program. Levels of data literacy vary, and literacy programs must adapt. To become insights driven, organizations must address all levels, increasing awareness, understanding, and expertise in data and analytics.

For a successful data-literacy program, insights leaders must:

  1. Establish a baseline.
  2. Segment the workforce.
  3. Tailor programs to business contexts, including company size and individual needs. (Short courses that deliver very specific skill-based courses presented timely or self-paced courses or more informal sessions, like lunch and learns.)
  4. Balance strategic with tactical. (A more tactical approach showcases short-term successes to highlight the value, and offers rolling enablement.)
  5. Formalize the program by integrating with learning management. (Train everyone, include data literacy training and refresher courses in performance goals, and use the training services of data experts.)
  6. Establish metrics that reflect business objectives. (A data-literacy program must support the business, program evaluations must reflect the impact on business outcomes.)

“The dangers of waiting too long are that someone else will do it first, and better,” Belissent said. “Companies who truly understand their customers can serve them better. Those who understand their processes can improve them. Those who can identify fraud can take steps to prevent it. Increasing revenues, reducing costs and protecting reputation. Data and analytics help but only if they are well-understood across the entire organization and used effectively. As Thomas Edison said, ‘The value of an idea lies in using iit.’ The same goes for data.”

Survey Methodology

The Forrester Analytics Global Business Technographics Data And Analytics Survey, 2019 was fielded in March and April of 2019. This online survey included 3,417 respondents in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, the UK, and the US from companies with 100 or more employees.

Also see

Image: Forrester