How tools help organizations develop data literacy – data literacy III




Author: Lohic Beneyzet


Many organizations want to be more data driven, but tend to overlook the importance of a data literate workforce. You need more then data scientists and data engineers to get a data driven business. It is crucial that employees in the business have a good understanding of the data that is presented so they make valid decisions.

In my two previous blogs about data literacy, I elaborated on what it actually is and why people and organizations should not stay behind in this. The first part explains why becoming data literate is important for organizations and people and the second part describes an approach to develop data literacy within an organization.

An organization that fully supports data driven operations by among other enabling employees to become data literate, will become more successful simply by operating based on the right information and better decisions. With the ability to read, understand, create, and communicate data as information comes working with data and business intelligence (BI) tools. Using these tools effectively and efficiently has a high impact on an organization’s data literacy maturity.

In this article more about the important role of tools. These days there are many data tools, but taking Microsoft ecosystem as an example, here’s how data tools can help you out in addressing collaboration, training, and data literacy maturity.

Data tools simplify decision-making

When we talk about the Microsoft ecosystem we are talking about a broad range of tools, from Excel to reporting and collaboration software. A critical data driven decision-making software is the Reporting tool. While Excel as a reporting tool can have its benefits, it is not well suited for modern collaboration on data driven decision-making. For this, Microsoft has launched in 2015 the reporting tool and dashboarding platform Power BI. It is a collection of software services, apps, and connectors that work together to turn unrelated sources of data into coherent, visually immersive, and interactive insights. Power BI enables you to easily connect to your data sources, visualize and discover what’s important, and share that with decision-makers.

Data tools are not a solution for data literacy

Having a modern data tool is important, but understanding the content provided by the tools is actually even more important. It is crucial to have a place and a process to manage the metadata: the definitions of the performance indicators, their origins and maybe their limitations in data quality.

Metadata management, because of its importance, is a topic in itself, interesting to explore, but to stick to the tooling, Microsoft has different tools to support metadata management, like Azure Purview and Azure Data Catalog. By giving users the ability to discover which data assets are available and how those link to the enterprise glossary, they will be empowered to use those assets faster. A good metadata management tool, like Azure Purview, is like the Google browser for Internet.

When you use Power BI, I would recommend reading this article about a handy, external tool to document a Power BI report: The Power BI documenter.

Training is key for data literacy

An important part of becoming data literate is the ability to work with data tools. The ability can be developed by self-learning, but to truly become a data literate organization, it would be wise to invest in proper training.

Making sure developers and end-users obtain proper knowledge to manage the tools starts with a data literacy training. This will give a knowledge baseline for everybody involved in data in the organization. Of course educating employees is not a one-time process, new employees need to learn the same principles in order to become and stay a data literate organization.

Developers create and maintain the tools and other content that are used by the rest of the organization. Knowing how to design and develop those tools so they will deliver business value is not easy. It demands a deep understanding of the business challenge, the audience and the capabilities of the business intelligence software. Engage your developers to improve their design: a good design is half of the work. Next to that, developers should know how to develop business applications that are using the data tool itself. Power BI is a rich collection of software services, apps, and connectors. It takes time to master all the relevant aspects to create impact.

Training for end-users of the business tools created by internal developers can be better developed in-house as these tools are specific to the organization, but for most of the data tool training courses, developing an in-house training is way too time-consuming and costly to develop and  maintain. On several topics addressed, there are many free, online training courses available.

How data mature is your organization?

Assessing the data literacy maturity of the organization is an important step to define the current level, but also to define the pain points that need to be addressed. The “Transforming Data With Intelligence” (TDWI) group has developed a useful data literacy guide and assessment tool. The assessment has fifty questions in five categories: Culture and Resources, Data & Infrastructure, Skills and Talent, Tools, Data Governance and Process.

Performing a data maturity assessment once a year helps to measure progress on those five categories, as that may take some time, and define bottlenecks. To develop your own assessment leveraging Microsoft Forms and review the results with Power BI is an accessible way to do that.

How to support data collaboration

In order to develop a strong data literacy, it is important that all the internal and maybe external actors of the organization can flawlessly and easily collaborate together. In the Microsoft ecosystem, the several tools are working seamlessly together, so that your effort developing data literacy are considerably facilitated.

A short introduction on the basis of a non-extensive list of services in the ecosystem and a short description on how those services support collaboration.

  • With Power BI, advanced and modern interactive reports and dashboards can be created. Through the Power BI Online services, employees, customers and suppliers can work together on their preferred devices in a secure manner. They can share reports, comment information directly in the report, export to Powerpoint, Excel or PDF and way more…
  • Part of the Office365 suite, Excel, Powerpoint and Outlook are important tools to support collaboration. Many data tools have been created with Excel. Excel integrates well with Power BI and “old” Excel applications can be upgraded leveraging the power of the Power BI platform. With Powerpoint, employees can work on their story telling skills and share those through Outlook.
  • Microsoft Teams is the Microsoft collaboration platform. It provides a workspace for real-time collaboration and communication, meetings, file and app sharing. Microsoft Teams integrates well with Power BI, giving the possibilities for teams to view their own reports and comment on those in one tool.
  • On the side of data cataloguing and management, Azure Data Catalog (ADC 1.0) and Azure Purview (ADC 2.0) support organizations on their metadata management, data lineage and data classification.


Data driven operations start with data literacy

By continuously investing in training, challenging  developers to create tools that create impact up to the operational processes and regularly assessing the data maturity of the organization to define areas to improve, it is possible to develop and maintain  strong data literacy.

Also, software companies continue to develop tools that support this challenge. Tools that integrate with each other. A periodic review of your landscape and exploring new tools to see how they can support your organization, will open up new opportunities to address data literacy.

Lohic Beneyzet

Insights & Visualizations

Lohic is een analytische en onder- nemende dataconsultant. Hij is gespecialiseerd in business intelligence, data warehousing en performance management in multi-unit enterprise-omgevingen en in marktspecifieke analytische systemen.