/ The importance of data literacy in an increasingly volatile world

The importance of data literacy in an increasingly volatile world

Data literacy — the ability to read, understand, create, and communicate data as information — is more critical now than ever before, as continued uncertainty forces organizations to innovate and be agile. All business leaders and owners — whether they run a shop in Wisconsin or own a construction company in Denver — have organizational challenges to deal with, whether it’s recruiting and retaining the right talent or scaling their business.



These challenges are where modern business intelligence (BI) comes in. In the past, BI was delivered via reports that took a lot of time and effort to build, but the combination of a fast-paced business environment and limited resources means that most organizations today must analyze their own data, as well as external third party data, and produce reports to make informed decisions and optimize business results. The proliferation of easy-to-use, flexible tools to do this has supported modern BI within organizations around the world.

At the same time, continued global volatility has accelerated the need for data literacy and highlighted the importance of closing the data literacy skills gap between the executive level and employees by ensuring data is clear, demystified, and accessible for all. Providing employees with easy-to-use software keeps them informed and ensures everyone is staying connected.

Most companies recognize that data in the hands of a few data experts can be powerful, but data at the fingertips of many is what is truly transformational. Now, business leaders and their employees are increasingly having to use data insights not just to evolve and thrive, but in many cases, to survive.


Data curiosity

Data curiosity is often said to be the secret sauce for a successful data-driven organization. It’s a dynamic part of data culture, encouraging employees to seek new or existing data, question it, and use it to make more informed decisions.

Employees interested in seeing the value of data then feel confident in spreading the word around the organization. By examining and questioning the right datasets, staff members can quickly gain insight into existing problems and empower the relevant business units to solve the issue. This visibility then sets the stage for a more data-centric culture within the business.



Having a central data platform facilitates this process, allowing the same data to be visible to everyone. Domo modernizes how businesses run by leveraging their data at cloud scale in record time, giving employees at every level of the organization the pertinent data they need to do their jobs better. By speeding up access to data, business leaders can make informed business decisions rapidly. Find out more here.


The importance of data in a crisis

In the first episode of our ‘Curiosity: Do Data Differently’ video series, Donald Farmer, principal at TreeHive Strategy, interviews Gisli Olafsson, chief technology officer at nonprofit organization One Acre Fund, and Neil Gomes, System SVP at CommonSpirit Health, a nonprofit hospital chain in the United States, on how data-driven insights can help organizations understand, predict and govern the complex moving parts of a crisis response plan.

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, Farmer says that our unpreparedness for the crisis is akin to inventing a parachute after we’ve fallen out of the plane. “I see a ton of data being shared but relatively little insight that people are able to absorb. We’re not used to seeing this information.”



While many organizations have not been using data efficiently to respond to challenges, Olafsson cites some pandemic success stories, such as the restaurants which utilized customer data to understand how to evolve from serving customers in-house to serving deliveries. Those agile organizations have been best able to weather the most challenging crisis of our generation and will be most prepared in the future.

Olafsson says: “I would emphasize the importance of truly understanding what data you have — where your customer comes from, why and what they are buying, what different sales channels are most effective. That will prepare you for understanding how a crisis — any crisis — will affect you.”

Gomes agrees that understanding business data is critical in knowing how to respond to crises. “These types of epidemics are going to keep happening in the future, as populations increase, and businesses need to be more prepared,” says Gomes. His advice to businesses is to diversify to seize new opportunities and survive in challenging trading conditions. He also recommends digitization to cater to the online marketplace, which has enabled many companies to thrive during the pandemic.



Problems with master data and data silos

However, when it comes to data and how an organization or administration uses it to respond to crises, some issues continually crop up.

Within the humanitarian sector, for example, one problem is that the master data usually doesn’t exist, says Olafsson, and if it does, then it’s in multiple formats, with multiple stakeholders, and it isn’t easy to extract simple insights. This is also the case in business — despite massive investments in data — with firms restricted in their ability to pull valuable data analytics.

The lack of willingness from different parties to share data is also an issue, Olafsson adds. “I said to the UN Environmental Program a decade ago, ‘I think data to solve the climate crisis exists today, it just isn’t being shared by anybody with anybody.’ The head of the UN Environmental Program said, ‘I think you are right.’ So the data exists, but we aren’t sharing things between us.”

The healthcare sector is notorious for having the same problems with master data and data silos, says Gomes. “There are issues with the ways we measure different aspects of healthcare, even if it’s just the metric system versus something else, and there are also issues with the ways in which physicians [take notes] about a patient, the different languages, so trying to get a composite metric around anything is very hard.

“Structured data has always been a problem in the industry; some level of subjectivity exists in that data, the data is not always all there as the patient can have records on multiple different systems, which hasn’t been sufficiently shared, and the physician reading the patient’s notes might interpret something that another physician does not. So there are lots of nuances to healthcare data.”

Whether your business is facing global challenges, local disasters, or just everyday work concerns, understanding and managing data differently can help you respond more effectively. Find out more in episode one of our ‘Curiosity: Do Data Differently’ video series, which is available to watch here.

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