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Goodwill Hunting, anyone?
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As you know, I’ve been thinking a lot about data engagement recently, particularly as it relates to our ability to share cohesive stories. One common sentiment I’m hearing from folks as I explore this space is that, despite massive improvements to data transparency practices recently, access to data still feels siloed on our teams. I have yet to meet a company that is happy with its data habits and processes. Don’t blame yourself, though. One possible culprit: a lack of data literacy.
Data literacy isn’t just being able to read a graph, ask questions, and draw conclusions. For our purposes, a data-literate team should:
Be able to query datasets to find quick answers to questions
Have a shared (and codified) understanding of metrics: how they’re defined and tracked
Understand how key business levers move metrics
Know how (and whom) to ask for what they need when they can’t find an answer themselves
Without these core tenants, teams will waffle on decisions, will move slowly, and will struggle to articulate why they’re doing what they’re doing. We’ve all seen this before: a meeting breaks down because “we don’t trust the data”, a metric is being defined in a completely novel way, and you are immobilized because the analyst on your team is not responding to your frantic plea for a “quick data pull”.
No matter how robust the data stack, without team-wide data literacy, we’ll always have an accessibility problem and, even worse, an accountability problem. So how can we help our teams become more data literate?
The first order of business is making sure your data hygiene is on point. Do you have metrics definitions written down in plain English? Where? Are they frequently referenced and updated? Are data sources clearly defined? It’s important to remember that data literacy doesn’t mean that everyone becomes an analyst—they’ll still need functional raw material to work with.
When it comes to getting your team comfortable with working with data, these are my favorite beginner resources:
To know how to ask for what they need, your team needs to understand the modern data stack—both conceptually and which programs comprise your own.
Learning the basics of SQL, even if your team won’t be directly querying databases, will help them ask the right questions and, in a pinch, find their own answers.
Reforge has excellent role-specific tracks for data literacy; here’s an excellent one for Product folks.
How else have you improved data accessibility on your team? We’d love to hear from you.
Raman at Rhetoric
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