Data Literacy – why everyone should understand and evaluate data

A child’s reading and writing skills are regarded as something essential in our society. While in the last 50 years, data sets of a company were mainly used and processed by decision-makers, nowadays it is necessary for employees to evaluate data independently and to create added value for the company, and thus also for themselves.

Decision makers cannot create added value from their data due to the exponential development of their data sets.

The absence of “Data” or “Analyst” in the job title does not mean that employees cannot create added value from data on their own. It’s quite the opposite. While (external) data analysts are very quantitative and can overlook insights, the data competence of employees who have been working in one area for a long time offers the opportunity to gain valuable insights for the company through professional experience.

“The ability to take data—to be able to understand it, to process it, to extract value from it, to visualize it, to communicate it — that’s going to be a hugely important skill in the next decades.”

Google’s chief economist Hal Varian

Not all of them need to have very good statistical knowledge or skills in the common programming languages such as Python or R. An understanding of data within the company and its contribution to value creation, as well as the ability to communicate it to other people will become at least as important in the future.

There is no such thing as “the” data set; every company has different data sets and employees from different areas of the company, such as accounting, human resources or sales, can help to gain insight from data.

Let’s take the sales figures of a sales employee as a simple example: although he or she makes the same turnover over the year, there are strong concentrations of turnover in certain months.

While a data analyst can easily identify which sales were made in which period of time, the sales employee can communicate further relevant data to the analyst or collect and evaluate it himself. One possible result may be that, with the right analysis, the sales figures of the top months can be realized in the months that have been weaker until now.

“I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better.”

Physicist Georg C. Lichtenberg

The company’s databases can only be used for positive purposes if employees are empowered and encouraged by their managers to use them for the benefit of the company.

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