The ability to manage and use data in an effective and efficient manner has become critical to the continued viability and success of most businesses. Data is the key resource to informing decision making. It can be argued that data has become as important as cash when it comes to running a sustainable and profitable business in today's complex and uncertain business environment.
So why is it that so few businesses have a strategy and plan for the training and skills development of their knowledge workers to develop data expertise and capability? Many of today's knowledge workers spend countless hours working with data using obsolete technologies and techniques. I am continually amazed to see how many businesses are still running old style Excel spreadsheets with quadrillions of formulas in a multitude of sheets that nobody understands. A lot of business are running a lot of its processes through spreadsheets, and ;ets not kid ourselves, this a potentially very dangerous situation!
Its probably fair to say that a lot of businesses are basically running on Microsoft Excel.
So my question to them is how many staff members have been properly trained to use the full Excel suite, including Pivot Tables, Power Query, Power Pivot and Microsoft Power BI? We can even go a step backwards and ask how many businesses have trained their staff on the basics of data and visual analysis?
My own anecdotal evidence from having trained thousands of people in the past 15 years is that not many people have received proper training in these technologies and techniques. I normally find that people have a basic understanding of Pivot Tables, which they either learnt from the person sitting next to them or as part of a course they did which just touched on them, and have little or no knowledge of Power Query, Power Pivot and Power BI.
The reality is that data is useless unless it's transformed into information. I often see CEOs complaining that their companies are data rich, but information poor.
So what should businesses do? I would recommend that the people who are knowledge workers and regularly work with data should be identified and then trained in this field to improve their skills and capabilities. We have proven that by simply changing the way you use Excel, you can become 80% more productive in 20% of the time.
People who are trained to analyze data and that can ask meaningful questions of data are invaluable to any business who wants to make good business decisions that are driven by all the data they already have. These people are able to:
So in summary, data is useless without the people who have the right skills to understand how to work with it and businesses should therefore focus first on ensuring their people have the right skills and training to work with data before attempting to make data driven decisions.