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CDO Challenges – Data literacy means making better decisions

Business leaders are in a race against competitors to make the best decisions possible for their objectives and it is up to CDOs and data to guide them.

Data literacy is essential 

It cannot be overstated how much importance needs to be placed on data literacy. Organisations that do not have data literacy will struggle to be competitive, consistently make the wrong choices and are letting a valuable resource go untapped. CDOs must step up and insist upon data literacy training and testing for all teams and all seniorities. In a DataIQ survey, 71.2% of respondents reported that their organisational data literacy levels were moderate and that literacy skills were only developing with certain stakeholder functions. Only 6.1% of respondents considered their organisational data literacy levels were very high with widely democratised data and analytics. It is possible to accelerate data literacy in an organisation, but it needs to be done that cements the importance of why it is necessary.  

A good portion of the battle to develop data literacy and attain the correct decisions comes down to the way in which data is presented. No one in a fast-paced, high-pressure situation wants to receive spreadsheets filled with numbers as this will not help demonstrate what the data is showing. It is up to CDOs and their team to present the data in an easily digestible manner, usually through visualisation and spoken presentations.  

The implications of choices 

There must be an understanding of what the data results are showing and therefore the impact making a decision will have – and this can only happen with a certain level of data literacy. For example, it is important to recognise the different ways in which a decision based on data will affect the organisation and the future data being collected. CDOs should help decision makers understand that there is vertical data – data about what the business is doing – and horizontal data – how the data being used to make the decisions carries through operations and execution. 

By having an increased organisational data literacy rate, more people can weigh in on decisions. This allows other opinions and insights into different teams to be considered. For example, if there was only one decision maker, they may only look downwards from their position in the corporate pyramid and conclude this choice is suitable for their team – but every decision has upward and downward stream implications. If the wrong decision is taken because not enough people were data literate enough to take part in the conversation, the consequences could amount to sabotaging the progress of another team in the organisation. By increasing data literacy levels across an organisation, CDOs are creating a more egalitarian, democratised approach to decision-making which provides greater cohesion, cooperation and results.  

It needs to be noted that this is particularly important for international businesses with offices around the globe as regional differences, nuances and approaches to success add complexities. Very rarely does a strategy that has been successful in one nation roll out to another in an identical fashion to be 100% successful. This is why more people need to be data literate – especially those on the ground that can feed back into the main conversation and explain why or why not something will work in their region. It is only possible to gain insight by communicating with a department and learning about their processes as they happen – and this requires data literacy across an organisation.  

For a business to succeed, it is essential that the whole organisation has the ability in its staff to recognise, consume, advocate and argue with data. Users need to be confident of data’s origin and argue that it is valid for use to ultimately drive the right decisions and bring further growth, success and opportunities to the business. 

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