Get data skills up to standard with 'aristocrats' leading the way

Toni Sekinah, research analyst and features editor, DataIQ

According to a new report, there are four types of people when it comes to understanding of and willingness to work with data. The most skilled people in terms of ‘data literacy’ are data aristocrats. The data aristocrat has a high aptitude for understanding, and can help to uplift and upskill others in the organisation. Training for these people should develop them as a leader and a mentor, and should educate them in the latest methodologies within data and analytics.

Two men collaborating at laptops in an officeThe data knights are skilled at dealing with data but can sometimes feel overwhelmed. Organisations should develop their capabilities in data science, algorithms and statistical analysis. They should be encouraged to be evangelists with the organisations to get others excited about the value of using data and analytics.

The data dreamers may not always be able but they certainly are willing to use data and analytics. They recognise the importance of data but don’t always receive enough support to interrogate it. Organisations should give them a foundational course in critical and analytical thinking, then build on that with more advanced courses in data visualisation, and data storytelling.

The data doubters have more of a curmudgeonly approach when it comes to changing existing processes through data and analytics. They prefer to make decisions from gut instinct and feel bombarded with information. Furthermore, they don’t feel they are empowered to use data at work, and think that data is the job of the experts and analysts. They need introductory training to build a foundation with data and analytics.

"24% of business decision-makers are data literate, rising to 32% among the C-suite."

According to MIT, data literacy is the ability to read, work with, analyse and argue with data. Data literacy enables workers of all levels to ask the right questions of data and machines, build knowledge, make decisions and communicate meaning with others. However, data skills gaps and data illiteracy is widespread in many organisations. Just 24% of business decision-makers would describe themselves as data literate, a figure that increases to 32% among the C-suite. The survey carried out by Censuswide on behalf of Qlik questioned 7,377 business decision-makers across the US, Europe and Asia.

Man with ipad displaying charts and graphsIn order to create a data-driven culture, the report advises the heads of organisations to tackle resistance among the workforce, find a suitable data champion such as a CAO or a CDO, and develop the skills set of younger employees. They should also open up new data sets in this era of governance, breaking down organisational silos because data literacy talent is more likely to lie in IT or BI and they may be isolated from the rest of the business. In addition, forums in which data leaders answer questions posed by others is critical to upskilling employees at all levels.

An example of an organisation that has brought in a data and analytics training programme for its staff is Wringhtington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust. The Trust set up a voluntary programme called ‘Quality Champions’ which trained people on how to use information to help identify where quality improvements could be made.

"We give employees the training and tools to view our data and ask questions."

Mark Singleton, head of business intelligence and acting associate director of information management and technology said: “Our approach is to give employees the training and tools to view their data and ask questions that they haven’t been able to ask before. We are building up the skills and abilities across the organisation so the BI team shouldn’t be a bottleneck to them getting the answers they need."