CDOs Must Take the Lead to Improve Data Literacy

October 09, 2019

Contributor: Sarah Hippold

Data and analytics leaders need to cultivate an organizational culture that is data-literate and that values information as an asset.

Literacy is no longer defined as just the ability to read and write. There are several other skills people must master in order to solve problems and gain knowledge. Data literacy — the ability to read, write and communicate data in context — is among the most important abilities for organizations today.

“ By 2020, 80% of organizations will initiate deliberate competency development in the field of data literacy”

“By now, most organizations have identified the need to build a data-driven organization,” says Alan D. Duncan, Vice President at Gartner. “This is reflected by the increasing appointment of chief data officers (CDOs). One of their critical priorities is to foster data literacy across their organization. We expect that, by 2020, 80% of organizations will initiate deliberate competency development in the field of data literacy, acknowledging their extreme deficiency.”

The transformation to a data-driven culture and more data literacy across an organization requires the CDO to take the lead in three key areas of influence.

Business value of data

Data and analytics strategies are rarely measured by quantifiable business metrics of success. This is convenient but creates poor business practice. ‘Better decision making’ and ‘single version of the truth’ no longer serve to justify data and analytics investments. There is a clear communication gap between the business demand for data and the business outcomes that result from taking action on analysis,” says Duncan.

CDOs should not view metrics as a burden of accountability, but as a way to highlight success. They must identify the areas of business that will derive most value from analytic insight, and track the outcomes and benefits.

Cultural impacts of a data-driven approach

Culture is driven by mindset. CDOs cannot simply tell people to change their culture and suddenly become data-driven. They must use both rational and emotional arguments to inspire people to believe that cultural change is necessary.

They need to help people develop a new mindset that drives a new set of behaviors by explaining, in detail, how data influences different styles of decision making and how people can engage with data.

Ethical implications of data and analytics

Many professions, including those in healthcare and law, have a long history of ethical codes. By comparison, digital ethics is young, but it too is important. Business decisions can have far-reaching and unintended implications, when they are made without an ethical code. CDOs must take the lead in ensuring that any ethical considerations for data and analytics are mindfully addressed.

“Define ethical guidelines as part of adopting a principle-based approach to information governance — a code of conduct,” Duncan says. “The idea of an ethical code is to make the obligation to ‘do the right thing’ stronger than any need to ‘get a job done’ for the needs of an employer or client. Common themes include transparency, data protection and analyst integrity.”

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