Organisations that can harness the power of data effectively are able to create significant value and differentiate themselves. In the era of 2.5 quintillion bytes (or 2,500,000,000 Gigabytes) of data created every day it makes no sense not to rely on business users’ collective knowledge to harness the fraction of this vast amount of data your business creates. In order to do so, organisations across the globe are in need of getting their staff up to speed to “talk data”.
Unfortunately, according to a report by Melbourne Business School and AT Kearney, Australian organisations fall behind the rest of the world in terms of maturity and impact (extracting real value from their data). The lack of engagement with data specialists and training could have a central role in this outcome.
While Data Literacy is a journey and not a destination we still need to take that first step towards it hence my take on how to start this journey.
Step 1: Data democratisation:
The definition by Brendan Marr (influencer and author of Big Data in Practice) around data democratisation’s meaning “…everybody has access to data and there are no gatekeepers that create a bottleneck at the gateway to the data” may sound scary for a lot of organisations. This sense of fear has its roots in not knowing how to manage data ingestion, growth and its use, elements that should be addressed in an overarching business data strategy.
A common element in data strategies (and proven effective) has been the creation of a centre of excellence to keep the use of data somehow simplified. This centre of excellence should have a goal to drive adoption of data usage which is made possible by owning data accuracy, curation and governance. Just keep in mind that having a clear goal for the centre of excellence will avoid the trap of such centre becoming the new gatekeepers or bottlenecks in the new way of organisational data harnessing.
While data democratisation is no easy step I would invite all businesses to engage sooner rather than later.
Step 2: Up-Skill
It's no secret that continuous training makes happier employees, there’s also evidence that in long-term it saves the organisation money. In addition to these benefits training staff also creates a learning culture within the business which is the basic ingredient for innovation and business process improvement.
In order for business users to understand how to interpret data, metrics, and the results of statistical models they don’t need to become data scientist or statisticians themselves, however formal training to develop an understanding of these concepts should never be disregarded. This set of skills combined with their current business knowledge will ignite the engine that will take them to the next level. Within organisations, there’s also the need for the right framework and tools to get to them there. This means that, elaborate spreadsheets and fancy slide presentation will not get very far in a data analysis rich environment. The need for self-service data analytics and visualisations tools has never been more obvious.
Step 3: Challenge:
Involving staff in the decision-making process offers an avenue for increasing business users’ engagement level, they will feel they have a greater stake in the direction of teams and also the business as a whole. Organisations should institute a data based discussion forum where business users are encouraged to argue based on data interpretations and facts, not pure opinions. This could increase their feeling of ownership and accountability for the results of the discussion by preparing them to organise and present data to suit a particular audience to influence, persuade or just inform, communicating data (sometimes complex) in plain language.
Challenging business users to draw meaning out of data is also a way of promoting innovation and creativity within the business which could lead to ideas that can help the organisation grow. Setting a culture of innovation in the organisation.