Jordan Morrow, global head of data literacy at US software firm Qlik, discusses how businesses can prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution - including investing in data literacy

Digital skills-tablet

It’s the catch-all term for a world in which artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, quantum computing, 5G connectivity and 3D printing rule – but when it comes to how businesses can prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the answers are harder to find.

Also known as Industry 4.0, it is characterised by the fusion of these emerging technologies and could result in the digital transformation of entire systems of production, management and governance.

Whether in newspaper headlines, academic circles, among education professionals, discussions between concerned parents and in government bodies, make no mistake that the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is being debated at large – but nowhere more than in businesses all around the world.

How can business decision makers plan for a future where machines and intelligent technology will complement our jobs and roles without knowing precisely what the make-up of this will look like?

How can they predict staffing or know which roles to recruit into if they have little way of knowing what the impact of automation, AI and other technologies will be?

Jordan Morrow, global head of data literacy at US software company Qlik, discusses why he thinks Industry 4.0 could be good news for both businesses and employees.

Qilk, How businesses can prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution
Jordan Morrow, global head of data literacy at US software firm Qlik


How businesses can prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution – it starts with data

Our research shows that there is an answer amid the headlines and hysteria.

And the answer lies in data. Understanding of data to inform the future, application of data to remain competitive, and challenging and interrogating data to rise above fake news and see through the reams of information we are increasingly presented with.

We believe that data holds the potential for better decision-making and more profitable businesses.

In fact, 98% of global business decision-makers report that data is important in how their company currently makes decisions.

And, many employees may not know it yet, but businesses could be doing more to build the skills they need to compete and progress in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.


Why data literacy is important to how businesses can prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

However, data literacy is currently a skill beholden to a few individuals.

Data scientists, big data experts and technical employees boast specialist data literacy skills that few of us have.

General data literacy does need to be more widespread across all individuals, with business driving this skill set forward – but we don’t all need to be data scientists.

All too often, companies and organisations commit to training to show a commitment to staff, to position themselves as employers of choice and to retain the best talent.

Indeed, on the data literacy front, just 34% of firms currently provide data literacy training and only 17% of business leaders report that their company significantly encourages employees to become more comfortable with data.

Faced with the Fourth Industrial Revolution, however, using data to remain relevant is a win-win solution for business and the employee.


Why should I invest in data literacy skills?

Some companies might consider the upskilling of employees to become data literate a financial burden, especially with a generation that is no longer used to a “career for life” and is more open to a “gig economy”, whereby expensively trained staff might move on to a competitor or even out of your industry.

Our research shows that investing in data literacy skills for your employees can actually improve the enterprise value of your business or organisation though.

Large enterprises that have higher corporate data literacy experience $320m (£250m) to $534m (£417m) in higher enterprise value (the total market value of the business).

The good news is that 63% of business decision-makers globally already say their companies are planning on increasing the number of data literate employees.

Instead of waiting to see what the fall-out from the next revolution might be and what skills will be useful to remain relevant, employable and successful in the near future, companies and organisations can start taking action by upskilling the employees they already have, as well as looking ahead to future recruitment.

Some 91% of business leaders around the world see data skills as an important skill set for potential hires. And that means investing in training.


Create a framework to plan for Industry 4.0

Naturally, it isn’t enough to invest in training on data literacy to assume success over the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Companies and organisations should consider a framework that incorporates a vision and strategic plan to achieve a data literacy nirvana.

To get even close to that we have to consider the three pillars of data literacy: data skills; data-driven decision making, and how widespread the use of data pervades an organisation.

It will take initiative to address this issue.

Both at a grassroots level, where we are pleased technology education is evolving, but is ultimately too long-term a solution to solve a critical data skills shortage, and also top down from organisations, where direct action can be taken to instil data literacy more widely across the business.


Why is the Fourth Industrial Revolution good news for employees and businesses?

If employees can use it to add to their skillset, in particular to embrace data literacy, and organisations can recognize the business opportunity in investing in data literacy training for its people, both will stand to benefit – financially and educationally – to remain relevant for years to come.