Tech companies have a data literacy gap

Somewhere along the internal skilling journey, we fell off the data wagon. Here’s why companies need to reinvest in data training.

Man in tie at desk

Only about 40% of employees say they’re provided the data skills they're expected to have on the job.

Photo: Towfiqu Barbhuiya/Unsplash

Tech companies are drowning in data. And chances are, those fancy data analytics platforms they’ve invested in aren’t helping. But don’t blame the tech just yet. According to a recent survey by Tableau and Forrester, there’s a gap between what employees know about data and what employers think their employees know about data.

While 82% of leaders expect all employees to have basic data literacy skills, only about 40% of employees say they’re provided the data skills they're expected to have on the job, according to the survey. The findings signal a persisting dearth of data training within organizations, and because all roads lead back to The Great Resignation, this skills gap could be a reason your valued employees find somewhere else to work. According to the survey, nearly 80% of data-trained employees said they were more likely to stay with their company, and 10 times more likely to voice high satisfaction with their employer.

Decision-makers are twice as likely as employees to say they’re adequately equipping employees with data skills they need, according to the survey, but that training is often confused with simply providing the tools.

“One of the topics that I talk about with a lot of our clients is the difference between purchasing tools and having staff who can handle it,” said Merav Yuravlivker, CEO and co-founder of Data Society, a provider of data-training programs for companies. “Every organization that I know has purchased licenses to specific software platforms that are data analytic platforms. And that's great. That helps enable a lot of folks. But what we've seen in a lot of those organizations is they might buy 100 licenses, and there's maybe five people who actually understand how to use this product effectively.”

It’s a juxtaposition that makes it difficult for an organization to fully leverage the resources it has invested in, she told Protocol. While Yuravlivker has seen a lot of companies invest in the infrastructure (how data is stored, collected, secured and accessed), companies sometimes forget about data literacy, which includes promoting data knowledge across a staff.

“So if you're asking me the question, ‘Why is training being put on the back burner?’ I think it's because it hasn't yet become apparent to a lot of organizations just how much the lack of training really impacts their investment in that type of data infrastructure,” she said.

Mark Nelson, president and CEO of Tableau, views the lack of data literacy and training as a change management issue among organizations, meaning it takes a shift in a company's culture to encourage and support all employees in skilling up on data tools.

“Some people do think this is a technology problem — [you can] roll out the tech and it's all good — and that's not the case. It really is about the human aspect of building a data culture inside of your organization where the organization really expects to use data and is using data,” said Nelson.

He believes a lot of people are still at the beginning of the change management curve in that they’re pouring money into the technology supporting data analytics, but not quite at the point of creating a culture around it that stretches across the business.

“As always, there's lots of pulls on [your budget], but if effectiveness of your organization and retention and development of your people aren't at the top of your goals, you probably have other problems,” said Nelson.

Yuravlivker said oftentimes a new focus on data training is sparked by a changing of the guards, and as The Great Resignation continues, there’s been plenty of guard-changing lately. “A lot of times we get called in when we have, let's say, a new CEO or a new CIO who's been in the organization maybe for less than a year, and [has] come from a data-driven organization and understands the impact that it can have, and now wants to set that up within their own organization,” she said.

For some leaders, it’s also about making sure they don’t get distracted by the hottest new tech training.

“There's always lots of competing priorities, whether that is the shiny object of training in the tech world or just whatever else is going on. But I think as you see the need for this become very clear, the gap becomes very clear,” said Nelson.


Judge Zia Faruqui is trying to teach you crypto, one ‘SNL’ reference at a time

His decisions on major cryptocurrency cases have quoted "The Big Lebowski," "SNL," and "Dr. Strangelove." That’s because he wants you — yes, you — to read them.

The ways Zia Faruqui (right) has weighed on cases that have come before him can give lawyers clues as to what legal frameworks will pass muster.

Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

“Cryptocurrency and related software analytics tools are ‘The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic.’”

That’s not a quote from "The Big Lebowski" — at least, not directly. It’s a quote from a Washington, D.C., district court memorandum opinion on the role cryptocurrency analytics tools can play in government investigations. The author is Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui.

Keep ReadingShow less
Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol covering fintech. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

The financial technology transformation is driving competition, creating consumer choice, and shaping the future of finance. Hear from seven fintech leaders who are reshaping the future of finance, and join the inaugural Financial Technology Association Fintech Summit to learn more.

Keep ReadingShow less
The Financial Technology Association (FTA) represents industry leaders shaping the future of finance. We champion the power of technology-centered financial services and advocate for the modernization of financial regulation to support inclusion and responsible innovation.

AWS CEO: The cloud isn’t just about technology

As AWS preps for its annual re:Invent conference, Adam Selipsky talks product strategy, support for hybrid environments, and the value of the cloud in uncertain economic times.

Photo: Noah Berger/Getty Images for Amazon Web Services

AWS is gearing up for re:Invent, its annual cloud computing conference where announcements this year are expected to focus on its end-to-end data strategy and delivering new industry-specific services.

It will be the second re:Invent with CEO Adam Selipsky as leader of the industry’s largest cloud provider after his return last year to AWS from data visualization company Tableau Software.

Keep ReadingShow less
Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.

Image: Protocol

We launched Protocol in February 2020 to cover the evolving power center of tech. It is with deep sadness that just under three years later, we are winding down the publication.

As of today, we will not publish any more stories. All of our newsletters, apart from our flagship, Source Code, will no longer be sent. Source Code will be published and sent for the next few weeks, but it will also close down in December.

Keep ReadingShow less
Bennett Richardson

Bennett Richardson ( @bennettrich) is the president of Protocol. Prior to joining Protocol in 2019, Bennett was executive director of global strategic partnerships at POLITICO, where he led strategic growth efforts including POLITICO's European expansion in Brussels and POLITICO's creative agency POLITICO Focus during his six years with the company. Prior to POLITICO, Bennett was co-founder and CMO of Hinge, the mobile dating company recently acquired by Match Group. Bennett began his career in digital and social brand marketing working with major brands across tech, energy, and health care at leading marketing and communications agencies including Edelman and GMMB. Bennett is originally from Portland, Maine, and received his bachelor's degree from Colgate University.


Why large enterprises struggle to find suitable platforms for MLops

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, and as larger enterprises go from deploying hundreds of models to thousands and even millions of models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

Photo: artpartner-images via Getty Images

On any given day, Lily AI runs hundreds of machine learning models using computer vision and natural language processing that are customized for its retail and ecommerce clients to make website product recommendations, forecast demand, and plan merchandising. But this spring when the company was in the market for a machine learning operations platform to manage its expanding model roster, it wasn’t easy to find a suitable off-the-shelf system that could handle such a large number of models in deployment while also meeting other criteria.

Some MLops platforms are not well-suited for maintaining even more than 10 machine learning models when it comes to keeping track of data, navigating their user interfaces, or reporting capabilities, Matthew Nokleby, machine learning manager for Lily AI’s product intelligence team, told Protocol earlier this year. “The duct tape starts to show,” he said.

Keep ReadingShow less
Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

Latest Stories