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The era of 5G requires stronger data skills and culture

Jordan Morrow, Global Head of Data Literacy, Qlik


With more data, comes greater responsibility – but is your organization prepared for this?

With more data, comes greater responsibility – but is your organization prepared for the new era of connectivity and beyond?

5G spells a new era of connectivity. An era that will open up opportunities for new services, while also delivering more data, more devices, and more instant responses.

According to leading analyst firm Omdia, 5G is expected to have a bigger impact on the global economy than previous iterations, contributing more than $13 trillion to output worldwide by 2035.

For consumers, they can expect faster connections, streaming and downloads, improved customer experiences, and more support for emerging technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).

Various benefits are being touted across industries too. From enabling public sector bodies to improve services such as traffic management, to underpinning technology that allows medical professionals to practice surgery in virtual worlds, and enabling manufacturers to ramp up industrial automation and open up new revenue streams.

But with more data, comes greater responsibility. And are we prepared for this? To be successful in an increasingly digital world, means becoming an organization that is fully data-driven and operating in real-time – just look at the likes of Netflix, Disney and Zoom, which are succeeding even in today’s current climate.

Such enterprises are not only delivering services on demand and at speed, they’re breaking away from the pack by merging data and analytics to provide truly innovative and impactful solutions. Achieving this synthesis and analysis demands an array of technology that can not only handle data, but also enhance the way we interact with it.

In short, we can introduce new technologies – 5G is one example, but also the likes of 3D printing, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and metadata catalogs – but unless there is a heavy shift in how we approach working with data, we will not see the true benefits from them.

Empowering data-driven decision making

There are many organizations across sectors that are still struggling to achieve the digital transformation expected in Industry 4.0. Though data can be incredibly powerful when used across a business, too few companies are investing in their employees to use it effectively within their roles.

In fact, our recent research found that while 67 percent of the global workforce have access to business intelligence tools and 75 percent have access to data analytics software, just 21 percent of the global workforce are fully confident in their data literacy skills i.e. their ability to read, understand, question and work with data.

The main obstacle to succeed in digital world is not technology or data, it is to do with people. So, not only must organizations provide improved access to data and the tools to harness valuable insights from it, but also engrain stronger data skills and a new culture. This is the only way to empower data-driven decision making across the entire organization and be able to truly reap the benefits that new advances can bring.

Without this understanding, organizations will stand still – no matter the all singing, all dancing technologies such as 5G at their fingertips.

As Dr. David Miller, Senior Manager, Accenture and PhD in Clinical Psychology, notes: “Employers often don’t know how to support their employees to develop the competencies needed for adopting new technologies, which has contributed to stress in the modern workplace. But we are now at a tipping point with data, where we understand how we can empower a data-democratized workforce, and business leaders must make it a reality in their own organizations”.

Nurturing a data literate culture

Changing the culture of an organization is by no means an easy feat. It requires a shift of mindsets, where people not only accept that data is part of their roles, but they embrace and feel empowered by it. So, what does this actually mean in practice? Businesses could get lost in the addressing data literacy, but there are three key areas that a program should focus on:

  1. Leadership – There must be leadership buy-in for any data literacy program to succeed. That’s because they are best placed to set the tone and agenda for cultural change, marking how to measure it, conveying its progress, and extolling its virtues.
  2. Tailored Learning – No person is the same and so businesses cannot approach a data literacy program with a one size fits all mantra. People learn at different speeds and in different ways, requiring leaders to provide for differing learning experiences that nurture data literacy growth across that spectrum.
  3. Curiosity, Creativity and Critical Thinking –  The “Three Cs of Data Literacy” form the foundational pillars of nearly all data literacy programs. It is therefore important to foster them. There should be a strong desire amongst employees to know, understand and engage in divergent and novel thinking. This is more likely to occur when the tenets of such thinking are embedded in every part of a data literacy program.

Upskilling for next-gen tech

As we move on to the next generation of technologies such as 5G, it is essential that leaders create a data literate foundation that will make investing in them worthwhile. The best place to start is by diagnosing where an organization falls on the data literacy spectrum, then working holistically with a BI partner toward making the necessary improvements. It’s no longer enough to drop tools on users and hope for the best. Without considering the human side of data and technology, leaders will not be able to deliver true impact to their business or their customers.

When we look around us, it is easy to separate those organizations who have embraced the digital transformation that Industry 4.0 has to offer and those that have not. They have realised that only by connecting data together with analytics will they have a winning formula. And data literacy is an essential component of driving this forward.