Data Literacy is a Mindset

Stephen Gatchell, Boston Innovation Advisory Council, Vation Ventures

Stephen Gatchell, Boston Innovation Advisory Council, Vation Ventures

Data and Data Literacy are vital to ensuring companies are aligned in their mission, vision and value of their Data Strategy. To ensure context of this article, Data Literacy is defined as, aligning on the definition and value of data and insights to drive decisions and having the skills to question, understand, and challenge the data and insights. If Data Literacy is of low maturity in your company, every conversation will be a sales pitch and a challenge to get buy in for vital resources, execution across key initiatives and most importantly will diminish value from data! Having Data Literacy maturity will allow the highest value conversations around solving problems and identifying opportunities where data can drive impact and value to the company.

The goal of this article is to provide some context to five common questions that may arise in trying to driving the value of data and Data Literacy.

Intuition and gut feelings have been successful in the past, why must data and insights drive decisions?

Having low data and data literacy maturity will result in a lack of trust in the data resulting in default behaviors of using intuition. Things to think about include, how has the business changed including competitive changes, customer experience expectations, and customer behaviors? Look at the impact of Covid on consumer businesses. Consumer’s purchasing behaviors drove up eCommerce sales while decimating traditional brick and mortar sales. Using data can help provide insight into consumer purchasing behaviors while helping to predict how those behaviors may change. Data can help drive towards better decision making especially in unprecedented times or uncharted territory.

We have been using the same  data for as long as I can remember. Why must we change?  

Being unaware of how the business has changed and using reports that are not accurate or not answering the right questions can be detrimental in driving poor decisions. Decisions around poor or non-pertinent data can be worse than not using data at all. Ask, are the existing reports driving the right outcomes today and for the future? How has the business change and therefore insights need to change? Analyzing consumer behavior pre and post Covid provides much different insights in their buying patterns. Using existing reporting would not drive the correct decision making.  

The data generated for a  specific function is not valuable  to other functions. Why are  we trying to understand data  across the company?  

Driving transparency, collaboration, and different perspectives can help drive better outcomes. For example, analyzing direct store sales separately from eCommerce sales would not produce correct revenue predictions in an event such as a pandemic. Looking at business problems cross-functionally will provide greater insights into the business.

How do we find the time to learn about Data Literacy?

Having executives understand context, value and outcomes of use cases will drive more support for data driven decisions. As the stakeholders get closer to the data, the education process needs to go deeper. Not everyone has to be deep subject matter experts but having a Data Literacy program in place that has different levels of learning will help drive Data Literacy at the appropriate levels.

How can we trust the data?

Trust in the data should be focused on if it is fit for purpose vs. being perfect. Part of Data Literacy is ensuring an understanding of, what is good enough? Financials must be perfect, but end user data, engineering data, or even research data, can be fit for purpose and good enough to drive decisions.

"Being unaware of how the business has changed and using reports that are not accurate or not answering the right questions can be detrimental in driving poor decisions "

Being able to communicate why data and Data Literacy is vital to your company will take time and effort to align the context and messaging that will resonate across all stakeholders that have different levels of Data Literacy. Change management becomes vital in creating materials, messaging and spending time with influencers across your company that can help drive the maturity. Data Literacy is something that executives must understand the commitment required to increase maturity across the company. Resources must have time to learn, space must be given for debate, standard way of doing things must be challenged, organizational changes may need to be made, and most of all, everyone’s language and mindset must be aligned. Driving consistency on the value of data across all stakeholders will accelerate time to value. Lastly, Data Literacy is not a project or even a program, it is a mindset and to be successful it must be a part of the data strategy embedded into the culture of the company. If you want your corporate strategies and data strategies to be successful, make sure you have Data Literacy as part of those strategies.

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