Gone are the days when computers and data research belong only to those with high IQs and a pocket protector. While we have made computer literacy the norm in our everyday lives, we seem to be falling behind in our ability to keep up and understand the abundance of data being created that could help us drive more business and serve our customers better. 

According to a U.S. Data Literacy Survey conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Qlik, a leader in data analytics, "only one-third of all workers feel confident in their data literacy skills for the Analytics Economy." That's one-third at a time when more and more companies demand and value data literacy in their employees -- and 76% of employees report they are working with a higher volume of data today compared to three years ago. In this age of Big Data, Qlik surveys demonstrate that "workers lack the skills to fully leverage the abundance of information to create actionable insights."

Being data literate as a business moving forward will give you the ability to make good business decisions faster and will be the difference between success and failure.

The following steps can help you and your team to become more data literate today.

1. Appreciation

To become better at anything, you have to appreciate the benefits it provides. Data literacy is no exception. It can be intimidating if you don't feel confident in knowing what you need to know and how to read it. With practice, not only can you gain the confidence you need to improve your skills, but also you will learn to appreciate the powerful tool data provides. Becoming more data literate will enhance your performance and make you more efficient. It provides stability and credibility with how you interact with it and the impact it can have. Appreciate the access to data information you have and the ability to bring more value to the table with your confidence in understanding.

2. Integration 

Just as we have computers at our fingertips, it's important we have access to data at our fingertips as well. Technology has provided multiple platforms to allow us to gain information more easily. If the information is too far out of reach, people are not going to go out of their way to get it. Becoming a data literate culture means integrating data platforms into our work so we can become more familiar with it.

3. Contextualization

Simply gathering, storing and analyzing data research isn't enough. Data needs to be put into a perspective that can explain, convince, and empower. There needs to be more visualization, storytelling, and humanities; not be left to numbers, charts, and tables. By contextualizing data, it allows a wider variety of people to gain insight, increasing data awareness and use.

4. Simplification

If a data platform is difficult, it won't be used. Finding ways to simplify the process can eliminate some of the intimidation associated with becoming data literate. Several companies have found success by making self-serving access to data information available beyond the data science team. Allowing different departments to have access to the information they need to know can simplify the process. By branching out the data to those who actually use it allows research to dig deeper, gaining even clearer insight to specific performance.

5. Information 

The more information you can familiarize yourself with the better you can understand the data being created. Ask questions. Questions will get you what you need to know. Where does your data come from? How was it acquired? Why is it useful? When should you respond? You don't want to miss out on a business opportunity because you didn't understand the information provided in the data collected. Learn sources of data and how to access it. You might not compile data yourself in this age of Big Data, useful only to the extent it is not only collected but managed, analyzed and evaluated. If something exists, someone somewhere collects data on it. The question is, what kind of data is relevant to what you do, and where would you find it.

Data is rendered useless when there is no one with the skill to analyze it. Learn what data literacy is and what level of literacy is appropriate for your work and business. Data literacy involves knowing how to collect, manage and evaluate data. It involves applying data appropriately based on your evaluations. It requires knowledge of mechanics as well as concepts.

Remember: Data is your friend. You can discover exciting things when you look at data, sometimes surprising things that cause a major change in course. If you're comfortable with data and know how to ask it the right questions and put the answers to use you can put your business in a position for growth.