Published on

September 10, 2020

Advantages Data Literacy: Accelerating Digital Transformation

Jannik Weichert photo

Jannik Weichert

Managing Director


Learning Hub

Reading time:


Advantages data literacy

Know-how in data is often solely required by Data Scientists. But what if companies would start teaching other employees at least basic data skills? It is actually a necessary step to bring a business into the digitalization age. Digital transformation is not just one giant transformation project but the continuous development of an organization.

You probably heard the quote, “data is the new oil.” Nearly every organization and service collects data. Some understand it as its most valuable resource. Yet, regardless of the sector, the collection and handling of data are typically solely managed by a relatively small team of data experts. Even though data scientists are still high in demand and hard to hire, the reason for small data teams is actually intentional most of the time. Organizations manage their data in a designated vacuum (a.k.a. department), even though information needs to be available and used company-wide.

Maybe these issues sound familiar to you:

  • Data Scientists are often frustrated when working with coworkers from other departments, who lack basic data knowledge and understanding. Also, data scientists often do not receive the necessary support, either in terms of gathering data or expertise from colleagues.
  • Business stakeholders are unpleased because data requests take too long, or questions are answered insufficiently.
  • Management is discontent because they do not get the numbers and insights they require to create or validate strategies.

Often, a cause for those issues is insufficient efficient communication from a lack of data expertise.

Data literacy is the foundation of the fourth industrial revolution.

Data literacy means the ability to read, work with, analyze, and argue with data. Or to express it more simply: everyone participating in the modern workforce needs to be comfortable with data.

Implementation of data literacy throughout the business is the basis of developing a digital mindset and culture for a successful company in the 21st century. Contrary to what some may think, ubiquitous data knowledge doesn’t make data scientists and their expertise redundant. Instead, it stimulates them to work more efficiently and effectively while focusing on their core competencies.

With that background information in mind, here are five reasons why every employee needs to be educated in data literacy, and even your company should consider it.

1. Get on the fast lane towards a digital and data-driven organization

Data skills are needed across the organization to achieve a data-driven business of the 21st century. People in highly diverse roles require data literacy to make the best out of different tools and large amounts of detailed data. Additionally, increased automatization of business processes requires employees in more traditional business roles to understand how data is being collected, processed, and how it affects their roles and responsibilities.

A recent study among Chief Data Officers ranked low data literacy as the second-greatest blocker towards success (Source: Gartner).

As organizations become more data-driven, poor data skills will become an inhibitor to growth and ultimately cause a bottleneck. On the contrary, when you give everyone access to the data and the ability to interpret it, it can fast forward a business’s transformation towards a digital business. Ultimately, it makes operations more streamlined and efficient since those who can get insights out of data themself won’t have to wait for data scientists to decipher insights. The bottleneck is removed.

2. Everyone needs to make smart and informed decisions based on reliable information

After all, collecting data is worthless unless it is proficiently used. Data must be translated into insights. Making smart and informed decisions in any organization requires a broad usage of data.

Numbers bring light into the dark. Data helps backing up ideas, strategies, gain objective insights, and ultimately give employees purpose. In practice, that may look like identifying cost savings, finding (in)efficiencies, and discovering how to be more effective at one’s job.

Data is a valuable asset, but it needs to go through people and refinement to gain value.

3. Making insights accessible to everyone: translation and visualization of data

To truly make the best out of the data collected, every organization necessitates great data translators. They express requirements for data scientists efficiently and visualize information to make it easier to understand for everyone involved, but especially decision-makers.

Data visualization is one of the most in-demand tech skills in 2020 (Source: Northwestern University).

Let us illustrate just a few examples of how data translation and visualization in a non-data team improve any business:

  • convince prospects to buy your products with objective evidence
  • manage manufacturing efficiencies
  • optimize employee performance

Actually, everything can be measured and can be used to align KPIs. Thus far, all the data computer systems and tools are collecting are only occupy storage space, unless they are regularly looked at, interpreted, and shared with others.

4. Leap towards a customer-centric business

The utilization of data allows a dedicated customer-centric business: understanding user-data and employing it for product modification and new product development.

Like the Tech Giants Netflix, Google, and Facebook, you can utilize user data to improve your customer experience. This is not limited to R&D departments or market research teams but applies to everyone who comes into contact with the product or product-related services.

Training sales, marketing, and customer support to be comfortable with and utilize data to understand user data leads to a better understanding of customers’ use cases, issues, and wishes.

5. Data literacy is the new standard business skill

Previously, the must-have skill every employee needed was Microsoft Office. For the 2020s, that must-have skill is data for all types of professional activities, from sales manager to clerk.

As businesses and entire industries develop and deploy digital products, services, and complete business models, any workforce needs to grow and reskill collectively as expectations and requirements change.

Research suggests that productivity loss from the data literacy skills gap costs companies around the globe 200 billion US-Dollars every year (Source: Accenture and Qilk).

Employees should be able to use data to influence their day-to-day activities as well as big-picture decisions. If used the right way, it can help every employee achieve their objectives, perform their job better, and contribute to overall productivity and company performance.


A deficiency in data literacy is one of the most significant roadblocks to digital transformation success and a company’s ability to grow. Even though investment in big data and hiring data analysts and data scientists are on the rise, it is still estimated that every second organization lacks the data and AI skills to achieve business value sustainably.

Data literacy is now like alphabetical literacy was a century ago.

Data will propel forward momentum and success. Right now is the time for everyone in an organization to understand why it’s essential to improve data literacy - and then act upon it.

Are you feeling inspired to get your workforce data literate? Find out how - reach out to our team.

Explore further with these stories

All posts

edyoucated is funded by leading research institutions such as the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB), Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK).

Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung (BIBB)