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The age of informed action is beckoning: Here’s how business leaders should prepare

by jcp

Dr. Paul Barth, Global Head of Data Literacy, Qlik

It’s 2022 and vaccines are being developed in months instead of years, artificial intelligence (AI) is an increasingly prevalent colleague, and the metaverse is extending beyond gaming platforms and into our meeting rooms.

These capabilities are all products of a society that is becoming more data and digital-first, evolving the workplace as we know it. Hybrid work is the norm, office hours are being reshaped and data has gone from a passive entity to an active organism that enables informed action. Business leaders must now look ahead and consider how to prepare themselves, their companies and their people for the coming age of informed action.

To make that preparation as successful as possible, leaders need the answers to three questions:

  • What does the future of data in the enterprise look like?
  • What are the implications for the enterprise?
  • How ready are we for a culture of informed action?

To help them in that quest, we recently carried out global research to find out how data is evolving in business, where the gaps are, and what business leaders and third-party experts believe will be crucial to success in the future enterprise. Based on these findings, I’ve summarized what I think business leaders need to know to achieve that success.

Increasing expectations around data-informed decision making

IDC expects global data creation and replication to grow 23% between 2020 and 2025. With that growth will come greater opportunities for data use and the insights it provides to drive more informed, in-the-moment decision making.

AI and automation are also becoming increasingly integrated into our working practices. In our report, Data Literacy: The Upskilling Evolution, 87% of business leaders surveyed anticipate introducing robots and physical machines in the office in the future to encourage collaboration between intelligent systems and human employees.

With growth, market share and innovation opportunities at stake for those who improve their relationship with data, employers already expect a certain level of data usage by their employees. The use of data by employees and its importance in decision-making has doubled in the past year alone, and 89% of business leaders now believe all team members should be able to explain how data has informed their decisions.

But what are the implications of these expectations?

The data literacy opportunity

The greatest implication is one of education. To make decisions with data – let alone meet expectations of explaining how data has informed the decision – requires data literacy, our ability to read, work with, analyze and communicate with data.

Data literacy is one of the big non-negotiables for any business that wants to remain relevant in a data-driven future. In fact, leaders and employees believe that data literacy will be the most in-demand skill by 2030, which means that in just eight short years, the prevalence of the skill throughout the global workforce needs to take a big leap forward. Especially given just 11% of employees surveyed currently feel fully confident in their data literacy skills.

Already today, data literacy skills are so in-demand that every executive surveyed would offer an average salary increase of 26% to candidates that could demonstrate data literacy. This translates to an additional $11K USD to the annual salary of the average US employee.

And for those who are able to build their data literacy skills, it’s not just money that’s on the table. Data and analytical skills will provide a new route to leadership for ambitious employees, as firms anticipate creating new C-level positions such as Chief Customer Experience Officer, Chief Metaverse Officer, Chief Automation Officer and Chief Trust Officer in the next five years.

Business readiness

Based on these statistics, the answer to ‘how ready are we for a culture of informed action?’ is, in the majority of cases, not ready enough. Much more needs to be done to ensure that businesses and their people will thrive in a future where data plays an increasingly important role.

This includes championing a data literate culture from the top down. Our research found that 35% of employees have left a job in the past 12 months to move to an employer that offers better upskilling and training. In the current talent market – where business leaders don’t just face the challenge of growing their talent base, but are facing unusually high attrition amid the Great Resignation phenomenon – it is key that employees understand what professional opportunities are open to them and how their leaders will help them achieve them. Could they be their company’s first Chief Automation Officer?

It also means democratizing access to data literacy training and user-intuitive tools across the entire organization. Currently the vast majority of skills investment focuses on data roles, with just 13% of customer service teams, 11% of finance teams and 9% of sales teams receiving data literacy training. This is short-sighted, as it is only when most employees are empowered with these skills, and supported with interactive and customizable interfaces that support the exploration of and collaboration with data, that everyone will be able to make better, more informed decisions.

A successful future starts now

We are poised at the start of a new era for enterprise data. Leading organizations are seizing Active Intelligence, where context-rich insights are served in real-time to trigger both human and machine actions in the moment. With the rise in data and advanced technologies, such as AI and machine learning, the analytical opportunities these systems provide will be enormous. But only if the insights are in the hands of those that have had the upskilling to translate it into real business decisions. It will be these companies, empowered by these data literate employees, that will succeed in this new era.

So, I urge business leaders to start upskilling their workforce and creating a culture that encourages curiosity to build this future – to lead this transformation and reap the rewards of the new opportunities to come.

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