Demystifying Data Literacy to make it more Accessible
Updated: May 30
Data is a valuable asset which will create a competitive advantage for businesses that can unlock its potential.
Recognising the potential is creating a skills gap for data expertise where the demand for skills is higher than the availability. But I’m wondering whether this is creating a perception that only a certain type of person can do ‘data’. Yes, there can be a need for some very technical skills, but to do a lot of the tasks most businesses will need, they don’t need a PHD data scientist.
In fact, I believe the skills gap can be significantly reduced by making everyone in the business more confident in using data. Actually, it’s essential to do this otherwise the gap will get wider and businesses will get left behind.
Some of the ways businesses are doing this are by increasing data literacy, the democratisation of data and becoming data citizens
But what do these actually mean?
Feels very academic, a bit scary that you will have to learn a whole new way of thinking and that is all about data and maths. All the stuff that a lot of people will run a mile from.
To make everyone feel confident with data we need to start by making it more accessible and something that they can do and more importantly want to do.
‘I don’t come to work to do data’
‘I’m not a data person’
We hear this all the time.
But I think people are actually more ‘data people’ than they think.
If we think about how we make decisions most people will naturally think about building evidence to help them. Even simple things like how long it will take to get to a meeting. Most people will refer to the Trainline or a timetable of some kind to see when the trains are available but also will think about their past experiences and journeys to decide when best to leave.
You’ve used data to make that decision. Ok so you haven’t read a chart or analysed the correlation of impact but you have made the decision based on data.
Making decisions based on past experience is actually using data, you are thinking about what did and didn’t work and what could have been done better. It's just that data hasn’t been recorded, but you are already mentally doing it.
It's about tapping into the thought process of decision-making and positioning how data can support the process to build confidence in using data to make decisions.
So I believe we should be looking to enhance skills and knowledge rather than a whole new way of thinking. It is actually less about maths and more about patterns, logic and being able to ask the right questions.
We have worked with a number of clients who have thought they needed a data scientist to solve their data skills issue but aren’t even really sure what they want them to do. It has ranged from simple reporting to building machine learning models to engineering producing accessible datasets. All of which require different skills.
Some of the skills you may already have or with a little training can upskill different areas in the business to use data to support their functions, for example, empowering your marketers to be able to visualise the campaign reports to highlight insights to support their future plans.
Often we find that when we take a step back to look at what the business wants to achieve and demystify the data within a business it becomes easier to determine where the gaps are, where you need to upskill and where you need highly technical skills to do the more complicated jobs.