Surveys: Data literacy can’t keep up with data sprawl

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Skills shortage means that it will be hard to fill roles of the future such as chief metaverse officer and metaverse experience designer.

Image: Song_about_summer/Shutterstock

Business data is doubling in size and expanding over more platforms but data literacy skills are not keeping up. Most organizations have data on an average of six platforms and leaders are much more confident in their team’s ability to crunch data than the employees themselves.

New research about data literacy and data management found these trends in companies around the world. The two challenges are intertwined and each one makes the other even more important to address.

The “2022 State of the Data and What’s Next” report from Red Hat and Starburst looked at how companies collect and manage data. Data Literacy: The Upskilling Revolution considered what skills employees need now to set data-driven strategy and compared that to management’s POV.

The data literacy report from Qlik also made some predictions about how data-driven work will shape leadership teams over the next decade. Almost all of the 1,200 company leaders in the survey said these positions will be hired into their organizations over the next 10 years:

  • Chief Metaverse Officer in charge of employee and customer experiences that straddle digital and virtual realms
  • Metaverse Experience Designer responsible for employee and customer experiences in the virtual and physical settings and who ensures data transfer is seamless
  • Workplace Environmental Architect responsible for ensuring physical and virtual workspaces maximize employee productivity and well-being
  • Immersion Counselor who uses virtual and augmented reality to boost mental resilience and well-being through guided immersive therapies

Here’s a look at findings from both surveys that explain what strategic and operational changes are required to support this evolution to a data-driven enterprise.

Employees want data literacy training now

As with many work situations, there’s a disconnect between leaders and workers. C-level executives think more than half of employees are data literate while only 11% of workers agree. The survey found another disconnect: 52% of executives are confident in their own data literacy but 45% still rely on their instincts instead of data to make decisions.

SEE: Retaining talent may be about proper employee training, not perks

The Future Labs and Qlik produced the data literacy report which combines insights from interviews as well as survey data from more than 1,200 global C-level executives and 6,000 employees from the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. The report defines data literacy as the ability to read, analyze, work with and communicate data.

Employees want to improve their data skills, according to the survey, but only 27% have had formal training with hands-on exercises. Workers in customer service, finance, marketing and sales teams all stated that the need for data literacy today is much greater than the amount of training available. People also are worried that employers don’t see any responsibility to help team members develop these skills.

C-level leaders currently prioritize training for people working in jobs specifically related to data, according to the survey, and neglecting people in other more general roles:

  • Data analysts or data scientists: 58%
  • Product development and research and development teams: 34%
  • Directors: 32%
  • HR and people teams: 12%
  • Customer service teams: 13%
  • Finance teams: 11%
  • Marketing: 10%
  • Sales teams: 9%

This approach leaves entire lines of business behind, according to the report, such as HR and procurement. This also results in a loss of enterprise value, with survey data suggesting that companies whose employees have higher data literacy skills can earn $320 to $534 million in higher enterprise value.The report lists PwC UK as an example to follow. The company trained 17,000 of its 24,000 employees in data literacy and framed the instruction as a change program to shift the overall mindset about data.

The report recommends taking these steps to improve data literacy:

  1. Champion a data-literate culture supported by active intelligence systems
  2. Democratize the right data through tools and literacy
  3. Embrace perpetual learning to keep pace
  4. Promote trust in data
  5. Harness data for continual improvement and positive change

Data shows no sign of stopping

The second data report released this week from Red Hat and Starburst shows just how big this ongoing learning challenge is when it comes to data.

Research firm EMA wrote the paper The 2022 State of Data and What’s Next and found that companies have an average of four to six data platforms and as many as 12 separate data systems. The highest increase year over year showed up in APAC countries, with projections showing platforms increasing last year and projected to continue to rise into 2023. Complexity goes up as a company’s data spreads out over numerous systems, and security risks increase as well.

Survey respondents listed these priorities for getting data systems work together:

  • Automating IT and data operations: 38%
  • Implementing search across multiple platforms: 33%
  • Using artificial intelligence to scour data and make recommendations: 32%
  • Using business intelligence platforms that access multiple platforms: 31%

In addition to data sprawling across multiple platforms, the overall volume is going up too. The survey found that the top five priorities for new data to collect are:

  1. Streaming
  2. Video
  3. Event data
  4. Image
  5. IoT

Companies are getting better at moving data pipelines into production more quickly with 51% of survey respondents doing so within 24 hours as compared to 48% last year. The survey identified these priorities for access to real-time data:

  • Customer engagement
  • Real-time changes in risk
  • Employee engagement
  • Real-time market shifts
  • Engagement on mobile apps
  • Real-time supply chain shifts

The last two items on the list increased in importance significantly as compared to the 2021 survey.



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