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May 2021: Talend, a vendor of data and analytics tools, released its Data Health Survey Report that claims 36% of executives skip data when making decisions, and instead go “with their gut”. At the same time, the report claims that 64% of executives “work with data everyday”. On the surface, these two figures seem at odds. However, the report goes on to claim 78% of executives “have challenges in making data drive decisions”, and this is largely due to data quality issues. However, the most interesting finding from the report is “those who produce and those who analyse data live in alternative data realities”.

Why it’s Important

At its core, this report highlights the issue of data literacy. The report was compiled from 529 responses from companies with over USD10 million in sales. A quarter of respondents were from the Asia Pacific region. However, IBRS cautions drawing Australia-specific inference, given that different markets have differing levels of data literacy maturity. No details were given for industry, which is also likely to impact data literacy maturity. In fairness, any more detailed analysis of a country or industry would not be feasible, given the sample size. 

The above concerns aside, the report does highlight the importance of data literacy: investments in big data tools are useless unless executives are knowledgeable and well versed in the key concepts of applying analytical thinking to business decisions. IBRS notes that without data literacy, the most common use of new self-service visualisation tools such as Power BI, Looker, Domo, Tableau, Qlik, Zoho and others, is to ‘prove’ executives' gut feelings. In short, too often visualisations tools are used to reinforce the ‘current ways of thinking’ rather than seek areas for improvement.  

The report’s statement that “those who produce and those who analyse data live in alternative data realities”, frequently underpins IBRS inquiries into why business intelligence and analysis programs fail to produce the expected business benefits.

Who’s impacted

  • Business intelligence/analytics teams
  • Senior line-of-business executives
  • Human resources/training teams

What’s Next?

ICT teams responsible for providing business intelligence and analytics services need to cease solely focusing on the tools and technologies and ‘getting data curated’, and spend time exploring which business decisions would most benefit from the application of analytical thinking. However, the ICT teams cannot do this alone. They need to be involved in uplifting data literacy among line-of-business executives and work closely with them to identify the decisions that not only can be addressed with data, but those that would make the biggest difference to organisational outcomes. This does not mean that all aspects of a data scientists role need to be explained to business executives. Rather, training executives in the principles of using data to inquire into issues or disprove current ways of doing things is more important.  

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Staff need data literacy – Here’s how to help them get it
  2. When Does Power BI Deliver Power to the People?
  3. The critical link between data literacy and customer experience