The Importance of Data Literacy

In a world increasingly powered by data, data literacy is almost as important as literacy itself and an organisation’s ability to succeed will be dependent on its employee’s abilities and willingness to learn this new language.  

Gartner defines data literacy as “the ability to read, write and communicate data in context, including an understanding of data sources and constructs, analytical methods and techniques applied — and the ability to describe the use case, application and resulting value.” 

If you break it down, data literacy is the ability to understand and translate data. If the Marketing team speak French, the Sales team speak Polish and the Operations team speak German and no one can speak a second language, communicating business value and why technology works would be impossible.  

Employees must have the ability to communicate and understand basic conversations about data because as data becomes more critical to businesses, the ability to speak data, as it were, will be an integral part of most jobs 

This vital skill is the difference between being able to derive value from data and analytics and losing out to competitors who have embraced data literacy in their organisations 

How to Showcase Data Literacy  

There are four key parts to data projects that need to be followed to ensure success.  

  • 1. Ask the right questions and be a data champion. You need to be passionate about using data and teaching others how to do soA data champion will be able to create relevant questions to analyse the data and challenge the answers drawn from it.  
  • 2. Assess the situation, put a contingency plan in place and understand the requirements of a situation. Eighty-five percent of big data projects fail, and they usually have the following in common: not having the right data or talent, trying to solve the wrong problem or forgetting about ethics.  
  • 3. Have defined success criteria to prove the value of your project. Be it traditional project management metrics, lean/agile or even financial metrics, something must be in place to showcase the success.  
  • 4. Be clear on the risks and benefits of not doing your project. It needs to be clear what will happen if you don’t go through with your project and the benefits of success if you do. 

Data literacy is a vital element in every professional’s development. The increase of data availability and the benefits that can be gathered by being able to understand and optimise this cannot go unnoticed.  Organisations should continue to encourage and socialize data literacy concepts. Putting data to use and drawing new insights and opportunities (and not just collecting it) is key to progression in organisations 


Author Bio


Bethany (not Beth, it’s never Beth) is Project Manager. Most well known for her work with MBN Academy and The Data Lab, Bethany has led workshops on diversity and inclusion, employability and upskilling across the country. She has a cat and pretty much everyone worth knowing likes cats.