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Data literacy Leads To Greater Confidence, Productivity


Today’s organizations are focused on introducing new business models, which is the key to digital transformation. In the process, they are increasingly embedding data and analytics into their various business processes and decision making. As a result of these developments, companies are also facing data-related challenges that are impeding their performance and growth. In an exclusive interaction with CXOToday, Arun Balasubramanian, Managing Director, Qlik India explains why it is necessary to address this gap through data literacy. He also shares how the company is positioning itself to take advantage of the next wave of the analytics economy.

CXOToday: How Data literacy plays a vital role in better output by employees.

Arun Balasubramanian: Businesses are getting very good at collecting data, so it is a true pity if it cannot be used. There are two hurdles to using data – one – the technology has to be able to bring together and combine data from diverse data sources and pull it together into an easily understandable, visual format. Two – employees have to be willing and have the knowledge to use this data.

Our recent APAC data literacy survey found that employees in India are seeing rising expectations to use data at work. An overwhelming majority (85%) said that they work with a higher volume of data today compared to three years ago and almost three in four (72%) use data once a week (or more) in their current job roles. Employees across India also acknowledge the value of data and data literacy in their jobs, for example, 99% agreed that data helps them do their job better, 96% think higher data literacy would enhance their credibility in the workplace and 93% believe data literacy would increase their value at work.

It is no surprise then that almost nine in ten of data literates say they are performing very well at work, compared to one in three of the wider workforce (i.e. non-data literates). Data literates are more confident and productive, which enhances the value that they drive for the organisation.

CXOToday:  What is the role of Visual Analytics in enhancing the Data Literacy skills?

Arun Balasubramanian: A picture is said to be worth a thousand words. When it comes to data analytics, I think we can safely say that a single visual is worth a hundred thousand lines of data. Having the complete information available to a business user in an engaging format allows them to see the data they have much more clearly. Beyond static visualisations, platforms like Qlik also have the unique ability to eliminate “data blind spots”, i.e., relevant information which a user might be unaware of having missed during data analysis. This is done by enabling users to explore all possible associations between different data sets, allowing for a more meaningful and uninhibited investigation of information.

Since it allows even non-technical users to self-service their own queries, this significantly improves decision-making agility and ability for all users. Data literacy, as a result, is improved, as more professionals are exposed to and leverage data to support their roles with a high degree of confidence.

CXOToday: Why should Government offices implement these tools for better services?

Arun Balasubramanian: Data, in a country like India, is abundant. It is also trapped across numerous silos and data environments. Not unlike many government bodies around the world. The low accessibility and availability of data means that Indian government agencies are often unable to utilise the information that they ideally should have at their disposal for making decisions. As a result of this partial and fragmented availability of data, high-impact decisions could be based more on approximations than on accurate and complete information.

As impossible as the feat seems to put data together to make sense of it, governments around the world are already overcoming these challenges. The Brazilian government, for example had an 18-year old public procurement price problem due to incomplete information. Government acquisition and contracting, a multi-billion-dollar business, was done through a complex system based on wide market research that, in theory, guarantees fair price estimates from supplies to buyers. However, after importing more than 1.5 terabytes of data into Qlik, they were able to create interactive, up-to-date, and most importantly – simple, dashboards ready to help the public make informed decisions. With this solution in place, any Brazilian citizen may access this data and use it to make knowledgeable decisions about their purchasing options. A process that used to take anywhere from 15 to 20 days, has been reduced to only a few minutes! This is the power of modern data analytics.

CXOToday: Which are the top five industries investing in Data Analytics?

Arun Balasubramanian: When it comes to the sheer volume of data analytics applications, industries such as BFSI (Banking, Financial Services, and Insurance), e-commerce, retail, healthcare, and manufacturing definitely top the charts. Other sectors such as transportation, education, sports, media and entertainment, and real estate are also registering an ever-increasing demand for state-of-the-art data analytics solutions to bolster their operations and drive greater growth.

CXOToday:  How Data analytics tools are emerging as one of the most useful business intelligence elements.

Arun Balasubramanian: At Qlik, we see so many examples everyday of how analytics is helping organisations gain a competitive edge within the market. What data analytics does is expand the outlay of business intelligence to not only help organisations navigate the current market situation and achieve short-term goals, but also make it possible for them to efficiently drive their long-term growth. Data analytics can also help organisations in optimising various facets of day-to-day operations.

Take the transformation witnessed by SABMiller India, for instance, which implemented the Qlik data analytics platform across various operational verticals. Qlik’s innovative solution demystified the data to make it more accessible and agile; information about various operational parameters such as freight costs, distribution expenses, manufacturing cost and variances, market working & compliance of sales team, and out of stock and ageing of stock situations in markets was quickly made available in an easily consumable and understandable visual format. This not only helped the organisation cut down on the time and effort spent in creating manual reports, but also triggered the transition from a report-led approach to an insight-driven work culture.

CXOToday: How are various sectors like Healthcare, Retail, construction, etc. relying on data literacy for getting the maximum benefit from it?

Arun Balasubramanian: Since data literate employees are able to read, work with, analyse, and argue with the information available to them, they are more capable of spotting the difference between credible, complete, relevant data versus outdated, or incomplete information. This is the true differentiator as data literate employees can not only find meaningful insights trapped within their data sets, but also support their decision-making processes through accurate and relevant information.

Effectively reaping the benefits of data literacy requires a large-scale transformation in the data analytics strategy at modern-day organisations. Right now, most analytics operations are largely restricted to a core team of data professionals. There is an urgent need to take this data out of the isolated silos it is in, and make the more available and accessible to business users across the board. Business leaders must also take the lead to nurture a data-led work culture within their organisations, and encourage more employees to utilise data to back up their decision-making. Doing so will instil a data-first mind-set across the entire organisation, which will help global businesses to enhance operational efficiency and productivity, ensure better customer satisfaction, and deliver better products/services.

CXOToday:  Can you tell us about Qlik’s expansion plans and roadmap in the next 1-2 years?

Arun Balasubramanian: We believe, data is going to be the currency of the future. It’s a huge market and we’re well-positioned to grow, and continue to add capabilities like augmented intelligence and hybrid cloud. Today, we serve over 48,000 customers around the world including Bajaj Auto, BookMyShow, Lupin and Micromax, among others in India and have three offices locally, of which the India headquarters is based in Bangalore.

Qlik’s vision for the future is defined by three core pillars of innovation – Data, Platform, and Analytics, and around three big ideas that will ensure we continue to lead and disrupt the data analytics market. First, to drive the most value from analytics, people need to be able to work with all their data. This means accessing data wherever it resides, without being limited by its location, size or complexity. Next, organizations need to think about how data is utilized in an infrastructure that fully supports their unique needs. With current offerings, customers must choose on-premise or cloud deployments. We aim to change the choice to “and” by building our platform to work seamlessly across on-premise and cloud environments.

Finally, users need to be met where they are, with the right capabilities for whatever they are trying to do. This could include a range of current and future use cases from visualizing data and creating analytics, to exploring centrally deployed apps, to consuming printed output, to analyzing on mobile devices (online or offline), and to building custom applications and embedded analytics. And increasingly, these experiences will be enhanced by machine intelligence to suggest insights and drive data literacy. We are therefore investing in a new cognitive engine and a number of augmented intelligence and machine learning capabilities to make all types of users smarter, while keeping people at the heart of decision making.

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Sohini Bagchi
Sohini Bagchi is Editor at CXOToday, a published author and a storyteller. She can be reached at [email protected]