Behind the Buzzword: ‘Data Literacy’

We often hear data literacy mentioned as an important step in the data-driven process. Often used to refer to the education of ‘non-data’ employees, we know that data literacy is about upskilling groups of employees, but what does it mean in practice? And what is the impact of engaging in a data literacy program?

What is data literacy?

At its core, data literacy is removing the fear of data with knowledge and creating a mindset to embrace data innovation. A ‘data-literate’ employee is able to understand and use data with confidence in their daily role, communicate successfully about data concepts and collaborate on designing data products. 

A workforce that is not ‘data literate’, may face challenges in data transformation due to a lack of engagement from business teams. This can impede collaboration on data projects, resulting in misinformed project briefs, slowed implementation and challenges with the adoption of new processes or utilisation of new solutions.  

Many companies today are not satisfied with their current position in this space. A 2022 report from NewVantage Partners cited that 91.9% of surveyed data leaders feel that cultural factors (people and processes) are the biggest obstacle in becoming data-driven, yet only 12.7% name data literacy as their top investment priority. 

Many businesses do not envision a future without data, so those investing in a data literacy programme now will create a competitive advantage.

Enabling data democratisation

Data literacy is often linked closely with another concept: data democratisation. Data democratisation is a term for making data more accessible across an organisation.

Businesses have traditionally been focused on protecting access to data to improve security and reduce misuse. This belief is changing, however, with many data leaders aiming to provide greater access to data across the organisation to support innovation and increase data-driven decision-making across the business.

Data literacy is a critical step on the journey to ‘democratised data’. It is necessary to give users the skills to utilise data efficiently and safeguard data quality and access. A data-literate team with free access to data is empowered to get creative with data in ways that may not have been possible in a restricted environment.

How to create a data literacy program for your organisation

The first step to becoming data literate is to determine a baseline of where your employees’ knowledge stands. Figure out which areas you excel in and which areas you could use improvement.

When it comes to educating your business teams, it’s best to split this into three groups; basic level training for the whole organisation, advanced training for data champions, and condensed training for managers. 

Data champions can be selected from existing teams or managers. These data champions are responsible for driving data usage within their team and contributing to data project plans on behalf of their team.

 Ideally, each business unit should have at least one data champion – this could be anyone who expresses an interest or skillset with data. Ensure that data champions exist at all levels of the organisation to act as project sponsors for new data initiatives and advise on KPIs. 

Another great strategy to improve data literacy is to allocate data management responsibilities to the business team, such as quality assurance. This allows the business team to get the necessary data exposure to become data literate and gives them an active role in the data workflow. You can read more about managing data as an asset and how it relates to data literacy in our previous blog Behind the Buzzword: Data as an Asset.


After implementing a data literacy strategy, it’s important to measure its success to ensure your efforts are working and highlight opportunities for growth. A data-literate workforce helps organisations complete data projects, utilise data solutions more and enables teams to make data-driven decisions in their day-to-day roles.

What’s Next?

Need support building your data strategy or creating a data management process? Check out our services page here, or read our other blogs and resources. Our expert team can also help improve your data literacy 

Call a member of our team today for more information.