The need to adapt to digital technologies, such as the internet of things (IoT), big data, analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), has brought forward many opportunities and challenges for organizations. Among these challenges, particularly in light of the coronavirus pandemic, are maintaining a positive employee experience, creating a collaborative digital culture and improving performance while working online. Organizations can only address these challenges by analyzing data and making decisions accordingly.

The COVID-19 Data Explosion

The pandemic has accelerated the use of digital devices including simple sensors, wearable devices, smartphones and personal computers — all connected and producing data. Even before the pandemic, the International Data Corporation (IDC) predicted that the “global datasphere” would grow from 33 zettabytes in 2018 to 175 zettabytes by 2025 (one zettabyte is equal to one sextillion, or 1021, bytes).

Analyzed correctly, this data can inform and guide decision-making. However, many organizational leaders are unable to make sense of this data, giving rise to the need for data fluency training.

What Is Data Fluency?

Data fluency is the ability to comprehend data and information and garner insights from this information to enhance the decision-making process. With the constant improvements and innovation around digital technologies, we are now moving from the raw data imports toward a clean interface that provides a comprehensive analysis of raw data. Where previously we had to download or mine piles of raw data and then spend weeks to clean and analyze it, now, technology platforms are becoming more intuitive and providing insights in a matter of seconds. As a result, it’s more important than ever for leaders to clearly understand, identify and communicate the key performance indicators (KPIs) that matter most for the business.

Data and Analytics: The Language of the Business

Data is everywhere, and it is constantly changing. Although digital platforms are providing their own visualizations and analytical insights, not everyone understands or is comfortable communicating in that language. A key challenge is that many organizations do not use such information to analyze performance, and now since it is at their fingertips, they are both apprehensive and excited to reap its benefits. It is also important to democratize this information by making it available to employees at all levels.

Data Fluency Is a Skill Problem, Not a Technology Issue

Enabling data fluency requires upskilling employees to understand the fundamentals of data analytics and its connection to performance. This training may include teaching the concepts of metrics, analytics, correlations, regression and outliers. It’s also important for employees to be able to drive actionable insights from this information. This data-driven decision-making will enable the business to improve the bottom line.

A Way Forward: Collaborating and Connecting With the Business

More than ever before, it is important to ensure that everyone in your organization is able to understand the “why” behind using data and the “how” to do so. Becoming data-driven is a process, not an end in itself, and it requires time from both the leadership team and the employees. There needs to be an organization-wide vision to a data-driven approach to business, which comes from creating a data-driven culture, led by data-fluent leaders who ask the right questions and do not hesitate to connect and collaborate across the business.