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Taking the lead on data literacy in SMEs

Updated: May 30, 2023

There are increasing numbers of articles talking about the need for data literacy skills and some great resources to aid businesses and individuals on their data literacy journey (

Nowadays every business will have data - whether that's how the website is running, how marketing campaigns are working or interactions with a brand through purchasing or using a service.

However, in SMEs, key personnel are often focussed on product development and sales, so the opportunity to learn from the data within the organisation can get overlooked. Rarely is there budget (or necessarily need) for a FTE data scientist and data planner, especially in the smaller end of the SME landscape.

So the need to upskill in data literacy is vital. In our view, it’s important to recognise that data literacy is not only about having the key technical skills of a data scientist but being able to ask the right questions from data and translating the insight to make informed data driven business decisions.

Three tips to focus your data strategy:

1) Define your business ambitions. Where do you want your organisation to be and how will you get there? I personally love a McKinsey Issue Tree framework to help focus the mind on the layers that build to deliver a big ambition, then overlay a “how can data help” lens to determine the business application of data to the big picture and the prioritisation of associated data tasks.

Bruno Nogueira has a good site on how to build issue trees:

2) Be inquisitive. Find out more about your data and insight landscape; understand how you can get insight out of the tools that you use to run the business, marketing campaigns and your website, then unlock its potential to your business ambition; Design some hypotheses that may support your business ambition and anchor performance metrics to data applications.

3) Understand your customer. How much do you really know about your customers and how they engage with your brand and organisation? Who are your best customers and which ones can you grow further, what is going to make the biggest impact: acquisition or retention?

Thinking about these three tips will give you a good starting point so your SME can move forward with data integrated into business applications and visions.

Do let me know how you get on.


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