My Journey Toward Closing the Data Gap

Written by Nicola Osinaike

Businesses are holding out hope to fill the data gap.

Many companies have successfully combined data with technology to generate soaring profits. So what is the problem? Well, none of this is possible without people with the right skills. People with the skills to interpret data and use it to make the right business decisions.

Some organizations invest in expensive data software with the hope they can use it to drive efficiencies and increase profits. That software requires ‘data literate’ people to use it in a way that delivers results. Many employees are simply too terrified to admit they have no idea what to do with it. They hope their employer will provide them with the data training they need to use these tools in today’s workforce. 

Yet employers are, in fact, not readily funding this training! They are also hoping that they can quickly recruit people with the right skills. But there are not many of those around. So they can’t recruit, and they won’t fund the proper training. Houston, we have a problem!!

What is data literacy?

Data literacy is defined as reading, understanding, creating, and communicating data as information. Much like literacy as a general concept, data literacy focuses on the competencies involved in working with data. This concept was new to me until recently. I knew I had no fear when it came to learning how to use new software tools. I also knew I could successfully use data to support my opinions. Yet others found these same concepts very challenging.

As an Internal Auditor, despite everyone talking about the need to use more data, I noticed that in reality, few auditors did. It was evident that simply repeating ‘you need to use data’ was not leading to change. I was desperate to help, so I launched my firm Audit Data Hub to deliver ‘non-jargon’ data training courses tailored for auditors with no data analytics experience. But demand wasn’t precisely soaring, and I couldn’t figure out why. 

Data literacy lags far behind the growing demand.

I started to look beyond audit and turned my attention to business in general. As I researched, I read that organizations find it hard to utilize data, and recruiting the right skills is becoming even more complex. In fact, ‘Data Literacy’ development lags far behind the growing demand. The 2020 Qlik/Accenture study shows 25% of employees do not feel they have the right skills to work with data. Yet, in the same report, 75% of C-Suite respondents assumed employees were already data literate. The polarity of these responses shows us there’s a lot of work to be done to increase c-suite understanding.

Continuing to talk about data literacy is not enough to plug the growing skills gap. It is like reading a self-help book and hoping the reading alone is enough to change your life. The beam of light here is that the gap can be filled by those willing to do the work. Data literacy is not an exclusive skill of the rich and privileged. It is not a skill reserved for those in technology. It is a mindset which anyone can develop, and demand is only growing. 

Let’s narrow the data gap.

So what can we all do to start to develop these data skills and at the same time improve our employment prospects?  Here are the three tips to help you on your way:

·   Be honest – accept you need the training to improve your data literacy

·   Be motivated – use the internet to find suitable training and put in the work to learn

·  Be brave – if learning to utilize data is new, remember mistakes are simply a natural part of learning

Learning data skills will provide you with skills in growing demand. In my view, an opportunity not to be overlooked.   

Nicola Osinaike CIA / BEng is the founder and lead trainer at Audit Data Hub – delivering data analytics training for beginners. Using her jargon-free, fun, and engaging approach to teaching, she is helping those from a non-technical background begin to utilize data. 

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