Profusion’s Natalie Cramp on why businesses must act now on data literacy


As people have come to conduct more of their business and personal lives online than ever before, the world’s data volume has become almost unimaginably big. Every day it is estimated that around approximately 306.4 billion emails are sent, 500 million tweets are made and around 2.5 quintillion data bytes are created. By next year, 70% of the world’s GDP will have undergone digitalisation and over the next few years up to 2025, global data creation is projected to grow to more than 180 zettabytes. This new data creation presents a powerful opportunity for businesses to consolidate their strategic insights and, in turn meaningfully advance growth ambitions. Done well, the analytical power of big data can help achieve better predictability, equipping businesses with increased forecast accuracy so they can plan and take action accordingly. It can help companies pinpoint exactly what their customers are looking for and create tailored, hyper-personalised experiences designed to trigger brand loyalty. It can also help companies more easily identify upsell opportunities, leverage emerging trends and distinguish what new product updates would fit their customer base. The list goes on, but the significance is clear – data is an essential tool that any business should have in the armoury when priming for growth. This is echoed in a recent Forrester study which states: “Data skills have risen in importance over the past five years and the trend isn’t likely to stop anytime soon.”

It is, perhaps, surprising then that the data literacy gap remains one of the most pressing obstacles in achieving the wider data-driven mandate. Mind the gap According to Gartner, “by 2020, 50% of organisations will lack sufficient artificial intelligence (AI) and data literacy skills to achieve business value.” At Profusion we recently conducted our own research with business leaders which revealed that, on average, CEOs tend to have the least understanding of data and statistical concepts compared to their leadership team and managers. This was in tune with a pretty poor standard level of data education found among most senior professionals. The impact of this top-heavy data literacy gap cannot be underestimated. While once only required for employees within data analytics and business intelligence teams, the ability to interpret data is now a common and essential task in every business remit and ranking. Today, whether it’s an employee working in finance, HR, product development or marketing, more than ever, the ability to understand data, interpret it and use those insights to make collective, informed and overall better decisions is increasingly aligned to success. This becomes even more important as developing trends such as AI, virtual reality and 5G hyperconnectivity continue to push a new age of bigger data. Business benefits Of course, as busy businesses look towards new challenges and opportunities afforded by the New Year, upskilling on data literacy may appear to be the least of their priorities. However, it’s an investment worth making. As demonstrated by numerous studies across the globe, organisations that achieve data literacy reap significant rewards. According to research from the Data Literacy Project, enterprises with higher corporate data literacy scores can have $320-$534 million in higher enterprise value. This is indicative of our work at Profusion too. Our Data Academy offers a powerful upskilling programme which has been purposely designed for organisational leaders and managers. Through a combination of practical and theory-based learning delivered by our expert team, this short programme continues to empower individuals to become more informed and collaborate successfully with their data team to drive business value. A second language Against the backdrop of global digitalisation, there is no refuting the importance that the increasing volume of data will come to have on modern business. However, if only a handful of people in your business can understand and interpret it, irrespective of how advanced they may be, the reality is it leaves scope for error and, in the long run, could drastically impede your business’ digital transformation. Therefore, the recommendation is for businesses to take heed now, and make a serious commitment to drive better data literacy from the top down, championing data as a second language with everyone on the same page. In this way, as we prepare to embark on a data-driven era like no other, businesses and their leaders can ensure they don’t get left behind.


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