Data Literacy Needs to Be Reimagined

Despite all the hoopla surrounding it at conferences, in the press, and on social media, data literacy in recent years shows no significant improvement in the percentage of organizations successfully applying and getting value from it. Now is the time for data leaders to reject traditional approaches to data literacy and reimagine ways to better ensure success and value for their organizations.

Our data show that although most organizations have been investing in data literacy, they still report poor data-literacy rates. They simply attempt the most common and traditional approach of making all people, regardless of role or function, data literate through the same basic education in data concepts. Rarely does a focus exist on making people fluent in data while transforming data environments so that users can apply literacy to the business to create value through data transformation. A significant gap exists between these two areas.

When users apply data literacy to their jobs, problems, and decisions, value gets created for the organization, and BI initiatives are successful. Organizations that have not first established the following important success factors, as indicated in our data, will not have successful BI initiatives or data-literacy programs:

  • The presence of formal data leadership
  • Having a data-driven culture
  • Good communication between the creators and users of data systems
  • Trustworthy data systems that are easy to use and appropriately available (in alignment with established data governance)
  • Complete and diverse data
  • Data preparation aligns primarily to business objectives not technological capabilities

It is time for data leaders to reimagine data literacy and apply a new mindset toward it. Organizations that already have moved beyond functional data literacy to enablement of data fluency find direct value through more successful BI initiatives. Those that have not yet crossed the gap likely will continue to find efforts to become more Hyper-Decisive® thwarted by an inability to properly leverage data literacy.

Our data on the success of data literacy clearly signals data leaders that it is time to reimagine approaches to data literacy and give data fluency a look. Organizations need to move away from one-size-fits-all data-literacy programs, and instead enable their users to learn and apply data knowledge in the context of their roles and functions—using applied multiple-loop learning, which is where true learning occurs. By doing so, we believe that data-literacy rates will increase, as will BI success.

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