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How Data Literate Are You?

Companies today strive hard to foster and regulate successful data cultures. But uniting people, processes, and technologies continues to be a challenge for many.

In today's digitally-forward society, data analytics ceases to be a specialised skill. Being data literate is no longer just an option. It may not be necessary for you to know how to code, or be an Excel whizz. Nevertheless, having a sound understanding of data analytics and its applications is key.

A NewVantage Partners survey found that despite an increased investment in data, only 29% of businesses reported achieving their digital transformation goals in 2021. Now, this sheds a bright spotlight on a fact that businesses gloss over all too often.

While data may be “the new oil”, a company’s workforce is still its most precious resource.

For companies today, it’s about finding the needle in the haystack. Of course, the demand for diligent and skilled employees remains constant. But stumbling upon individuals who are capable of “speaking data” remains a rarity.

According to UCD Professional Academy lecturer Cian Vaughan: “It’s now essential for companies and their teams to become more data literate … if you understand data, you’ll know what it is ‘underneath the hood’ and you’ll be empowered.”

Statistics display a wide gap between what’s needed and the reality of the situation. A study by Accenture shows that only 21% of the global workforce is data literate. This proves that data literacy is far from the norm even today.

So how can you, as an ambitious working professional, contribute to a burgeoning data culture?

Know where you stand

Yes, everyone is uniquely talented. Keeping up with a data culture begins with being aware of what your skills are, and how you can hone them.

For example, you may be a gifted content marketer who is capable of weaving magic out of words – surely you'd love to create compelling stories from the enormous piles of data and insights your company has access to.

On the other hand, you may be a tech-savvy financial analyst with a natural flair for maths. In this case, being able to present your findings in an engaging manner would give you a cutting edge.

Either way, it’s important to be cognisant of how comfortable you are with data, and what your literacy level is.

Gartner has prescribed the following five levels of data literacy:

  • Conversational: Beginners with a rudimentary understanding of data analytics.

  • Literate: Professionals with the ability to speak, write, and engage in data programmes.

  • Competent: Professionals capable of designing, and implementing data analytics.

  • Fluent: Experts confident in all aspects of data analytics across the industry.

  • Multilingual: Seasoned practitioners capable of developing solutions, and explaining them to non-native speakers.

Once you’ve assessed where you are, it’s key to see how you can stand out from the crowd. According to Vaughan: “A lot of people know what they want to do, have a pretty good idea of where the data is and what they want out of it. But for one reason or another, they're not given the resources or the access themselves to do it.”

With this in mind, what can you do to arm yourself with the necessary expertise?

Think about where you want to be

It isn’t possible for everybody in an organisation to be data fluent or multilingual. The good news is, not everyone needs to be. However, most departments across the business must have a reasonable amount of working knowledge in the area.

Vaughan agrees: “You either empower people within and give them the tools, or name different departments to do it. If you’re not, as a whole organisation investigating the data, then it's no good - you need everybody.”

Let’s go back to our previous example of the content marketer and market analyst for a minute.

As a content marketer, you may be familiar with data, but not confident enough to analyse complex metrics. Familiarising yourself with the right tools will be helpful in refining future campaigns. Translating metrics that matter into stories that matter to your audience will make you a well-rounded, results-oriented content marketer.

As a financial analyst, you may be very well-versed in making data-driven decisions. But the limits to data literacy are endless. Learning more advanced skills will only springboard you to greater heights. It will keep you well ahead of the pack in a fiercely competitive industry, by sharpening your forecasting and analysis.

So, once you know where you are, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Where do I see myself progressing in my career in the next few years?

  • How can data analytics help me with my career progression?

  • How much knowledge do I currently have in data analytics? Is it enough?

  • How much more knowledge do I need in data analytics to get to the next level?

  • Do I have a firm understanding of the ethics involved in Data Analytics?

  • What can I do to learn more?

So what steps can you take to ensure that you’re more data literate?

Understand, utilise, and unlock the value of data

Cliched as it may sound, practice does make perfect. To start “speaking data”, have a think about how you can incorporate it into your daily dialogues.

Data is, as Vaughan states, “regulated and siloed”. He stresses the importance of democratising data to all departments.

Have conversations with your manager to see how you can utilise data more often. Don't be afraid to present relevant statistics and metrics to your colleagues or superiors when you think it's important. Set aside a little time every day to read, understand, and interpret reports. Remember, there’s no harm whatsoever if you need to start at the very basics. Once you master the basics, you can continue to Innovate with Data Analytics in your business.

According to Vaughan: "If you haven't any familiarity with data, Excel is a great entry point. But you want to get further than that. This is where programming languages come in and you’ll be able to start having full control over the data.”

There’s only so much you can learn without formal education or training. UCD Professional Academy offers a wide range of Data Analytics Courses tailored across the Finance, Marketing, and Business sectors. This includes flexible evening, part-time, on-campus and full-time programmes.

Skill up by finding the right Data Analytics Course here to suit your career development.