By Bogi Szalacsi - Senior Associate - infoNation
Data literacy is a relatively new concept. The expression showed up in the past decade and quickly became a buzzword around all industries. By now, companies are considering it one of their top priorities, and the importance of a “data driven culture”, “all around data literacy” and the role of the emerging star position, the Chief Data Officer are being increasingly emphasised at industry meetings, conferences and in countless articles.
No one can argue with the fact that data is now a priority for businesses, regardless of their size, and the handling of data is critical to success. Spending on analytics products and big data is now projected to grow above $200 billion by next year, up from $150 billion in 2018.
In order for organisations to become and stay successful, “data culture” has to be implemented, where all employees understand data, continually learn about data and handle data in a safe and productive manner. Even at very large companies it’s no longer feasible to restrict access to data to specific departments and highly ranked individuals. Employees across entire organisations need to use common platforms to view, disseminate and report on data and share results in a matter of seconds. Data security was fairly alien a few decades ago, now it’s an essential component of business and failing to keep data safe has dire consequences.
Enter the Chief Data Officer (CDO). In this new era focused on data, it's projected that by the end of this year 90% of large global companies will have a CDO in place, up from 12% a mere 7 years ago.
CDOs responsibilities and their measure of success can vary. Typically charged with enterprise wide governance and utilisation of information as an asset, data integration, market innovation and data monetisation, they will likely also be custodians and accountable for significant compliance / regulatory led business needs. Lastly and as importantly, CDOs increasingly shoulder the need to develop the data culture and data literacy within their organisations.
Embedding data literacy
Successful CDOs will make it a key part of their mission to ensure to embed data literacy and a data driven culture in their organisations. This doesn’t mean that everyone needs to become a data scientist or must acquire a deep understanding of data related technologies.
Even CDOs don’t need to have a PhD in data science. Many of them come from a business background, or are company veterans from different departments. Well-established data literacy within a company means that all workers understand data, are enabled to handle data and can talk to data science, data engineering and information communication experts when required.
The giants of the technology and consulting fields, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, KPMG and their peers, are in an advantaged position with resources, budget and capacity to have CDOs governing a small army of data experts on hand. They also often have established in-house training channels and employee development initiatives. But data science training should not be the privilege of employees of big firms. Whether an organisation is large or small, whether they have a CDO or they don’t, employees still need access to training from reputable sources.
Case Study: Why Lloyd’s of London took on the challenge of data literacy across the company
Lloyd's of London, founded in 1688, has been a pioneer in insurance and has become the world’s leading market for specialist insurance and reinsurance, protecting assets, promoting growth and sharing risk for over 331 years.
The insurance industry, with risk assessment and risk management at its core, has always dealt with data of groundbreaking size for any given era.
It’s no surprise that Lloyd’s has been taking data science training of employees seriously. With the leadership of Helen Crooks (Lloyd’s CDO) and Craig Civil (Head of Data Innovation and Data Science), the Lloyd’s Data Lab has partnered with the Southampton University Data Science Academy (SDSA) to adapt its training libraries and to incorporate some wider Open Data Institute (ODI) training.
The result: a tailored Lloyd’s data science training curriculum with technical (coding required!) and non technical training. Partnering with the Academy allowed the insurance giant to deploy a world class virtual learning environment, just in time tutoring for students and a formal assessment to help ensure learners really grasp the material.
Students typically study for 4-6 hours per week and learn not just the foundations of data science, but practical applied methods and techniques for analysing data, avoiding common pitfalls (e.g.how to avoid bias in data science and AI) and how to ensure ethical considerations are placed at the core of data science and AI related work.
Lloyd’s CDO Helen Crooks explains the importance to data science training across their organisation and the reasons behind their collaboration with the SDSA:
Addressing data science and AI capabilities
In order to keep up with progress, organisations of all sizes need to address data science and AI capabilities in their organisations. Large ones can rely on their established in-house training facilities and on buying in the best talent at a premium; smaller companies need to find other channels and invest within.
Partnering with reliable and accredited institutions such as the Southampton Data Science Academy can be a winning solution and form part of the overall approach to differentiating the business with data.