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Why data literacy is key to an optimised data strategy

(Image credit: Future)

We live in an increasingly digital, data-driven world. Nearly every innovative, new technology that has come to the fore over the last few years has been built on big data. No matter where you look—whether it’s our personal lives or our professions— our data is helping businesses make better decisions about everything from product development to go-to-market strategy.

In marketing, every click, transaction, and customer touchpoint provides invaluable data. That data becomes insights, which helps businesses understand their customers better. Allowing them to tailor their marketing in a much more systematic way. They can stop spamming customers with emails because they know what you, the individual, is actually likely to buy.

Being data-driven is all very well, but...

If that data isn’t accessible to everyone who needs it, it’s not going to help businesses make smarter decisions. Why would any business stifle their most powerful competitive advantage? You can have all the data in the world, but if you can’t access it, share it, and analyse it, what’s the point?

Once you’ve started collecting data in various systems and cloud apps, you need to build the right plumbing to pipe it into a single place, preferably in real-time, so it can be accessed and analysed by your team. Forward-thinking digital transformation leaders must look for ways to break down information silos, increase data literacy at every level, and make self-service analytics and business intelligence (A&BI) a reality.

The future of any data-driven organisation needs to be in the hands of its business experts. Gone are the days of restricting access to just your data teams and analysts. A&BI work needs to be embraced by domain experts, who have the freedom and confidence to uncover game-changing insights that drive product and process innovation. This is easy to do today with a cloud data warehouse (CDW), an ELT or ETL tool, and an A&BI solution that makes it easy for non-technical people to find their own answers.

Building an effective data optimisation strategy

A critical factor in any data optimisation strategy - and maximising the value of data - comes down to data literacy. Decision-makers often can’t wait for an ad hoc request to be fulfilled, so they must be able to find the answers themselves. Forward-looking companies understand data literacy’s increasing importance in today’s real-time world and are launching data literacy programs that essentially teach data as a second language. The more people at the company who understand how to read and communicate data in context, the more likely it is that you will have a data-driven culture and more data-driven decisions will be made.

As with any initiative, it is also important to set clear goals and objectives from the start. Benchmark metrics should be established so they can be easily measured along the way, upon project completion, and with a regular cadence until full optimisation has been achieved. It should be easy to evaluate, reflect, and share insights from the experience that can be applied moving forward to improve processes and the strategy.

Leading data optimisation challenges

Low data literacy throughout the organisation prevents companies from being able to truly get the most value out of their data. How can a company be data-driven if only a small number of SQL-savvy people can actually analyse data?

It is time to abolish the bottleneck and put an end to relying on the data team and analysts to deliver insights to the rest of the business. We need to make analytics and business intelligence accessible to everyone so anyone with a question can find their own answer. Data is most useful when everyone has the ability to explore it, both individually and collaboratively with other team members. Enabling business leaders and domain experts to harness the power of data will not only make it possible for companies, teams, and individuals to be truly data-driven, it will also free the data team and analysts from report factory hell and allow them to focus on more strategic, complex, and innovative projects. It’s a win-win.

It may sound obvious, but webinars are an easy - and often free - way to stay current on the latest trends and emerging technologies. They are also much easier to fit into your schedule than putting aside multiple days to attend a conference or trade show. Particularly during the current COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions on both large and small events. That’s not to say that events don’t or won’t continue to offer tremendous value because they certainly do, but webinars can offer focused learning opportunities without the expense or time commitment. Within a few minutes and just a few clicks, you can likely curate a line-up of helpful webinars that would rival any conference agenda.

Data literacy will be the defining skill for this decade

The desire to be data-driven will only increase as more companies migrate to a modern cloud-native data analytics stack. Data is most useful when everyone has the ability to analyse it, both individually and collaboratively with other team members. The real challenge facing organisations of all sizes moving forward will be to increase data literacy on every team and at every level. Just as we all learned to type years ago rather than rely on a typist, the not-so-distant future will require that all employees be proficient in the language of data. To achieve this, organisations will need scalable data literacy programs and user-friendly, consumer-like A&BI tools that empower everyone to make decisions based on data - not just instinct or experience - on a daily basis.

Rob Woollen, CEO, Sigma Computing