With data playing an increasingly important role in the mission activities, processes and decision making of CV, we have set out on a journey to build ‘organisational muscle’ in data and analytics.
In November 2019, we ran our first organisation-wide Data Fluency survey seeking to identify how staff engage with data, the data-skills that exist in teams, and the degree to which data is embedded in our culture and decision making.
Why does Data Fluency matter?
Like being fluent in a language, data fluency enables people to express ideas on data in a shared language (*1). Albeit incorrectly, the terms data-fluency and data-literacy are sometimes used interchangeably. However, if literacy is the ability to read and write in a particular language, then fluency is a standard of proficiency and command of that language. The same applies to the language of data.
Data fluency connects employees across various roles, through a set of standards, processes, tools and terms. Data-fluent employees can convert raw and original information into actionable information because they know which data is and isn’t available, what the data represents, how to interpret it, and how to use it appropriately. An organisation that is data-fluent rejects the idea that only a few, select employees should be gatekeepers of information. Instead, it is all about spreading the knowledge by widening data access across the organisation, improving decision-making for everyone.
When the culture of an organisation promotes the accessibility, interpretation and relevancy of their data, leaders and teams confidently make better and faster decisions. When teams and departments across an organisation are on the same page with data, it’s easier to define KPIs and track/predict success. Without a strong data-culture, this part often turns into a debate stemming from disparate data, thus facilitating a lack of trust. However, with data fluency, there’s a single version of the truth to work with; something that everyone can understand and accept. Data fluency also promotes curiosity within an organisation. When employees are learning new things they are usually more engaged in their roles, leading to smarter questions, better data analysis, and better outcomes.
Data-driven or Spirit-led?
Some might imagine incompatibility, or at least conflict in a Christian organisation, between making decisions based on data versus being led by what the Holy Spirit is saying. These approaches may certainly be in tension, especially if respective courses of actions are contradictory. The conflict would be exacerbated if taking a data-driven approach is considered ‘unspiritual’, or conversely an un-weighed spiritual approach considered ‘reckless faith’. However, the reality is that all of us make thousands of data-led decisions daily, without stopping to pray about it or feel spiritually guilty.
Some argue that common-sense itself is a spiritual quality, especially when one is anchored in a life of prayer and practicing discernment. Therefore, many organisations prefer to use the terminology ‘data-informed and spirit-led’ to resolve tensions, which places data as a respected voice in the decision-making process, while allowing God to set the course.
Data Fluency Survey
Our survey took inspiration from Gemignani and Gemignani (2014) (*2) who proposed a Data Fluency Inventory tool, as well as from Bugembe (2018) (*3) who describes the hallmarks of data-driven-culture. We adapted concepts from these and other resources to design a survey to measure:
- Sentiment towards data
- Individual and team-level engagement with data
- Proficiency in consuming data
- Proficiency in producing with data
- The data culture of CV
With 240 survey completions from staff in 18 countries, 20 departments and 30 job functions, we gained a comprehensive snapshot of data fluency in CV. Among several important insights, we found:
- 73% of respondents agreed that data, analytics and AI will have a transformational impact on CV over the next few years.
- 32% feel ‘strongly’ ready and equipped for this future while 59% say they feel only ‘somewhat’ ready and equipped.
- 91% of respondents said they would like to develop their data skills.
This rich mine of data now forms a baseline for focused strategies to increase individual, team and organisational data fluency. It has also helped us see that both the imperative, and the desire to build that ‘organisational muscle’, are in play. Welcome to the journey!
*2. Gemignani, Z. and Gemignani, C. 2014: Empowering Your Organization With Effective Data Communication. Indianapolis, IN: Wiley
*3. Bugembe, M. 2018: Cracking the Data Code: Unlock the hidden value of data for your organisation: Rethink Press