Driving Data Democracy

Having a Data Literate organization, country, and world will not happen overnight. The success of Data Literacy is dependent on a series of factors. Understanding the problem and awareness is of utmost importance. Creating a sense of urgency around the lost opportunities because of not having a Data Literacy program can be a remedy to kick start an initiative.

Implementing a successful Data Literacy program requires proper change management. At Axis Academy, we have adopted Kotter's change management steps:

  • Create a sense of urgency
  • Build a guiding coalition
  • Form strategic vision & initiatives
  • Communicate the vision
  • Enable actions by removing barriers
  • Generate short term wins
  • Sustain acceleration
  • Institute change

Data Literacy is not an event. It is a process and a journey. Axis Academy programs start with an initial assessment and roadmapping session to identify sequence of events and the path to success for the organization and the individuals within the organization.

According to a survey that Qlik conducted involving over 11,000 business leaders and workers, 70% of employees are willing to improve their data skills but feel they do not have the opportunity or the time to do so. Improving data skills is the same as improving any other skill; it takes time and dedication. This is why we don’t believe in traditional training classrooms consisting of long multi-day classes without any context to the environment in which people are actually working. Over the past 20 years in the data and analytics space, Axis has found that continuous mentoring and creating a collaborative environment for knowledge sharing is the optimal way to educate individuals on Data Literacy.

This approach leads us to the other enablers of Data Literacy:

  • Support of management and leadership
  • Culture of “Appreciative Failure”
  • Monetary resources
  • Flexibility
  • Adaptable digital infrastructure
  • Successful data project showcases
  • Empowered data consumers

However, there are a number of challenges when it comes to Data Literacy, primarily the evolution of analytics.

In 2005, having access to data and being able to crunch numbers in Excel put you ahead of the curve; if you knew how to do some automation with VBA Macros, you would be considered one of the few Data Literate Elite. However, these skills today are rudimentary, and borderline required for any analyst position. No one seeking an analyst position puts “Excel” on their resume anymore; it’s a red flag.

The rise of Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, Blockchain, Internet of Things, etc… creates new competency requirements to be Data Literate. Data Literacy competencies must evolve through time and with new technologies. Buzzwords come and go, and technologies evolve. However, the key process remains the same: individuals need to access, analyze, and share data in order to support their decisions using factual information.

One of the main concerns for implementing a comprehensive Data Literacy program is the seemingly daunting issue of Governance. But it’s not a matter of whether or not an organization wants to take on a Governance strategy; it’s a matter of how an organization will take on a Governance strategy in order to survive. Consider the following:

“Giving business users more freedom to access and use information may result in more mistakes and duplication than IT is comfortable with, but the alternative is often worse: business people making decisions with inadequate data because they can’t wait for slow IT processes.” (Timo Elliott , https://www.zdnet.com/article/information-democracy-vs-information-anarchy/).

Fast and easy data access is simply no longer an option in today’s world, it is a requirement, and proper Governance must accompany this data access. The fact is that organizations must choose between data dictatorship, data aristocracy, data anarchy, and data democracy. In data dictatorship, quality talent will not work for you. Data aristocracy creates silos and data bullies. Data anarchy will create so much pollution that increases the anxiety and fear of touching data.

Data democracy is the only path to success, and the same way that democracy requires a social contract and practice in place, data democracy also requires understanding of needs corporate citizens and their collaboration in learning.


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