Data Driven Organizations Must Start with Data Literacy

  |   January 22, 2021

business and organizational data being documented by a businessman on a laptop and tablet

According to BDO’s latest white paper, Getting from A to AI – The Path to Data Analytics Maturity, organizations need a combination of the right architecture, analytics, and artificial intelligence to create the technological infrastructure necessary for data analytics maturation. Beyond these critical technical factors, an organization’s ability to fully tap into its data hinges on its people.

Although many organizations have invested heavily in data analytics projects and are on their path to AI maturity, their workforce may still lack the necessary data literacy to make the most of these investments. Without attention to employee upskilling, a company’s workforce cannot support the future state of the business.

Data literacy is the ability to read, understand, and collaborate through data and is crucial to the success of a data-driven organization. By 2023, data literacy will become an explicit and necessary driver of business value and will be formally included in over 80% of data and analytics strategies and change management programs (Gartner). True data literacy means not only having the skills to understand, interpret, and apply data, but also the ability to craft a meaningful narrative to educate and steer an organization in a strategic direction.

By 2022, 90% of corporate strategies will explicitly list ‘information’ as a critical enterprise asset, and ‘analytics’ as an essential competency (Gartner).

Empowering employees with the skills to read, understand, interpret and apply data meaningfully will vertically fortify an organization.

How do you Create a Data Literate Workforce as a Step Towards a Sophisticated Data Maturity Program?

The journey to operationalizing analytics across the enterprise may start small, with ad-hoc adoption of analytics in dashboards and reporting, paving the way for more sophisticated analytics tools and business intelligence. Being on this journey will require employees to possess a robust and holistic skillset in data literacy to contribute to the company’s growth. According to BDO’s Maturity Model, employees first need to be educated about the latent power of data in improving day-to-day decision making, business outcomes and revenue potential. Businesses need to help staff recognize they could make more informed decisions with access to analytics. The workforce will need business acumen, creativity and analytical thinking and they should be introduced to data visualization and dashboard skills (e.g. Power BI, Tableau).

As many businesses become data-first organizations and move toward data analytics maturity, they need to ask the following questions to help develop their data literacy programs:

  • What would you like data to look like in your organization?
  • How would you like to use data to continue to reach your goals?
  • How do employees respond to data driven decisions?
  • How do employees use the data available to them?
  • How was your data sourced?

The stakes are very high. Regardless of where your organization sits today, future-proofing your business depends on laying the groundwork for data analytics maturity, which starts with a data-literate workforce. Businesses that do not invest in the data literacy of their workforce can experience significant financial consequences.

According to the Harvard Business Review, 85% of big data projects fail due to an inability to read, understand and apply data correctly.

In addition to project failure, Gartner found that firms lose an average of $15 million per year due to poor data quality. Beyond the financial burden, data illiteracy can waste substantial amounts of human capital as employees spend 50% of their time in hidden data factories, hunting for data, finding and correcting errors, and searching for confirmatory sources for data that isn’t trusted.

What is Possible with Data Maturity?

When correctly leveraged, a mature data analytics program can save businesses time, reduce risk and boost financial return. Mature data analytics initiatives in action can:

  • Create new revenue streams by employing computer models to detect new opportunities.
  • Detect fraud using deep learning to review payment records for discrepancies.
  • Spot system breakdowns by using deep learning to spot anomalies in operations.
  • Curb costs by using AI to make predictive analysis.

When an organization’s workforce understands how to utilize data, the rewards are considerable. Large enterprises with data-first approaches achieve up to a 5% higher enterprise value with an average gain of $320-$534 million (Qlik).

The first step towards a sophisticated data maturity model is ensuring you have a data-literate workforce. With an empowered data-literate workforce, the possibilities for growth in an organization are endless.

How REDW’s Data & Business Intelligence Experts Can Help

The ability to leverage your organization’s data can mean all the difference in maintaining a competitive edge. Our team of experts can help you discover your data’s potential value in improving internal operations through smarter business decisions. By assessing your data sources and data governance and implementing process automation, we can help take your business to the next level. Schedule a no-cost discovery session and demo review of our real-time dashboard services with REDW Operations Manager and consultant Chris Framel.


By Sara Sepkowski and Kirstie Tiernan. This article originally appeared in BDO USA, LLP’s “Technology & Transformation” newsletter (Winter 2020). Copyright © 2020 BDO USA, LLP. All rights reserved. www.bdo.com


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