Improved data literacy equals data-driven digital transformation

Data literacy is the missing link in the data value chain, as the necessary know-how can extract the insights required to identify and develop new business opportunities.

Digital transformation is defined in different ways by many sources, but all are agreed it represents a foundational change and improvement in how organisations deliver value to customers, by using technology.

Digital transformation is no longer a business priority but rather an imperative. Moreover, the pandemic has served to underscore this urgency. This was revealed in an IDC survey conducted in May last year, which reported that 59% of 373 IT decision-makers said that pressures stemming from the pandemic were accelerating their digital transformation efforts.

Moreover, the same study reports that despite budget concerns triggered by the COVID-19 outbreak, global spending on digital transformation technologies and services was anticipated to grow 10.4% in 2020 to $1.3 trillion.

Data is essential for data-driven digital transformation. Digitisation is probably one of the most overused phrases in business in the past four years, with many claiming it is just an over-hyped buzzword. But analysis of the data around S&P 500 companies (Standard and Poor's 500 − a stock market index in the US that tracks 500 publicly-traded domestic companies) clearly indicates the digital revolution is real and that it is transforming the business landscape at an unprecedented rate.

In the 1950s, companies stayed on the index for an average of 61 years. By 2011, that average was down to 18 years and now companies are being replaced every two weeks. We can see the impact technology is making even more so now that the reality of a post-COVID world is sinking in − if there is ever any such thing as totally post-COVID, as there are schools of thought that we will just learn to live with it.

The companies that transformed to a digital model early are big winners, as they are enabled to operate in a virtual digital world. The laggards are scrambling to digitise processes and will struggle for survival.

Lost or won opportunity?

There is no question that the stakes are high − if you get digital transformation right, you will be able to move beyond incremental improvement and shift closer to transforming businesses to be relevant in the digital economy. So, how do you do that? The answer is with the effective use of data across the organisation. In this way, you can improve customer intelligence and offer products and services that are in line with customers’ rapidly-evolving needs and demands.

It is necessary to not only improve and streamline processes, but rather to completely reimagine them.

It is necessary to not only improve and streamline processes, but rather to completely reimagine them. One can see examples of objects and processes dematerialising only to reappear in a digital world, daily.

Data creates the insights required to identify and develop new business opportunities. This not only monetises data through the supply of data management products, but there are also many new product and service areas that can be identified through analysing data.

Hot new talent is looking to companies that invest in their digital readiness and literacy programmes. Companies offering assessment and training schemes can have a major advantage that separates them from competitors in a crowded employers market.

One can see that globally organisations are beginning to recognise the fact that they need more data skills; however, there is a significant skills gap that needs to be filled, with just 24% of the global workforce describing themselves as data literate.

This means companies will have to start looking for new and skilled talent from outside sources – a scarce commodity − or identify talent within organisations and up-skill them with the appropriate data literacy training to effectively perform the work of the future.

Despite 78% of the global workforce being willing to invest more time and energy into improving their data skill set, just 34% of firms currently provide data literacy training and just 17% are considered to ‘significantly’ encourage employees to become more comfortable with data.

It is, therefore, essential that workers who get the opportunity to improve their data literacy skills make the most of it and place themselves in the best position to be a valuable resource that will help the business extract the benefit from this new gold – otherwise known as data.

Lastly, sweat the investments already made. Data literacy is the missing link in the data value chain. The high failure rate of business intelligence (BI) projects is typically not due to lack of good data or great technology but rather a low adoption rate.

Users tend to go back to their comfort zone (manual Excel spreadsheets) due to a fear of the unknown and lack of skill in working with data and modern BI tools. The objective should be, either with a specialised partner or internally, to remedy this skills gap and thereby improve utilisation and avoid project failure due to lack of uptake. 

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