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Developing Organizational Data Literacy

Author: Ron Faggioli | 7 min read | March 30, 2022


One definition of the word ‘literacy‘ is to be competent and knowledgeable about a particular field of study.

These days, the need for ‘data literacy’ is becoming more significant as technologies evolve, and managing their capacities becomes ever more complex.

Moreover, in business, the concept of ‘data literacy’ is emerging as an increasingly valuable asset, as those who have it are better able to discern relevance from data sources in order to make critical corporate decisions. Gaining data literacy, then, becomes an essential organizational skill set, which also requires an understanding of its aspects and facets.

What is ‘Data Literacy?’

Essentially, being literate with data means reading, writing, and using data in whichever way best suits the particular situation. From an organizational perspective, data literacy means understanding how corporate information impacts corporate decision-making and using that information to improve corporate outcomes.

For example, how often do department leads use data to reinforce their conclusions and suggestions in your organization? How many can make sense of last year’s numbers compared to this year’s numbers? How often does the C-Suite evaluate current data-based reports for investment or growth decisions? If you answered ‘never’ or ‘I don’t know’ to any of those questions, then your company may not be reaping as much value from its proprietary data as it should. Your teams might lack ‘data literacy,’ and that knowledge gap could be costing you money.

Why is Data Literacy Becoming So Important?

Fundamentally, data has no relevance unless someone understands it and knows how to harness its power. And to be literate, not only must they understand the data they’re seeing in context, but they must also understand the relevance of its sources, constructs, and analysis methods and be able to apply it in use cases to demonstrate its value. People with this capacity are able to discern emerging concerns based on the information in front of them. Further, the ability to act immediately based on current information can provide a powerful impetus for growth or reduce the opportunities for loss.

The need for organization-wide data literacy has never been so apparent or so urgent. When workers don’t understand the relevance of their data, they can make critical inputting errors and worse business decisions, resulting in ‘bad data’ infiltrating corporate data stores and infecting the entire organization. In fact, a study done by the Harvard Business Review revealed that the United States loses up to $3 trillion per year because of its erroneous reliance on ‘bad data.’ That number indicates that losses caused by the lack of data literacy impact a significant percentage of America’s corporate world. To reverse those losses, companies should consider building a data literacy program into their onboarding and staff training protocols.

Data Literacy as Team Effort

Today’s largest corporations are embracing data literacy on an organizational level as a fundamental element of doing business. Guardian InsuranceBloomberg, and Adobe all facilitate corporate digital academies that provide data science training across all enterprise sectors to ensure that all workers are capable of using their technology to the best of its capability.

The timing for providing such educational resources is important, too, considering the evolutions in data skills that have occurred over the past decade. In that short span of time, the digital universe has expanded to include artificial intelligence, machine learning, data lakes, pools, and warehouses, and a burgeoning variety of languages, formats, data types, and more.

Workers from every department are now managing vast quantities of information that are critical to both their personal effort and the overall success of their employer. It is more important than ever that they recognize the significance of the information that crosses their screens and act on it appropriately, no matter its content or their job description.

Training to the Task

To jumpstart your organization’s ‘data literacy’ project, consider implementing these four successful strategies:

  1. Provide training on the digital tools they use in their everyday work. Despite their ubiquitousness, many people are still not fully competent in processing standards programs like Word® and Excel®. Note, too, that workers come in many forms of ‘data’ personas, from the skeptics, who are unwilling to embrace data as a fundamental business tool, to the citizen analyst, who can solve the majority of their problems using relevant corporate information.
  2. Build an in-house digital academy that provides training and support for all levels of employees, including the C-Suite. The academy can act as an onboarding mechanism for new hires, a backup for data-driven decision-makers, and a training ground for job and skills advancements.
  3. Incorporate data usage into all business encounters. If you’re planning to make significant internal changes to your company’s functions or structure, include the underlying data supporting those changes in your announcements. Include relevant data in corporate reports, workers’ assessments, and other routine company documents. Demonstrate the importance of data to the entire organization by routinely using it in your communications.
  4. Use data as the basis of all decisions. There is always information streaming in from different sources that impact your current plans or next steps. Demonstrate that your leadership team relies on emerging intelligence to steer the company, build profits, and avoid losses. By acting as the primary example of the high value of data, you’re demonstrating to your workers that they should place an equally high value on their data, too.


Even if the $3 trillion figure isn’t completely accurate, its potential size still suggests that ‘bad data’ is every company’s business. If you’re concerned about ‘bad data’ infecting your organization, reach out to the data professionals at Datavail to help you build a more data literate workforce and a more profitable company.

For more information regarding developing organizational data literacy, download our white paper, “Automated Insight Reports: Data Analysis Applied.”

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