There is growing understanding that data-driven organisations are generally stronger and will be in a better position to thrive in the future. They can make better decisions that are more closely based on the needs and wants of their customers or client groups. They are also better placed to see and understand environmental or organisational changes and respond to them rapidly.
This understanding has driven the huge growth in demand for data scientists around the world. However, employing data scientists alone is not enough. Data science cannot be a niche activity if companies are genuinely to become data-driven. In the words of my colleague Haidar Altaie back in November 2020, we need to get data science out of the IT department, and into the boardroom.
And not just the boardroom, either. Everyone in the organisation needs to understand data and analytics. They don’t all need to be data scientists—but they do need to be data literate. This can best be achieved by democratising analytics: enabling self-service analytics so that everyone can use the necessary tools and data to support each and every decision within the organisation. This is not just true in commercial organisations: government departments and ministries are also discovering the benefits of democratisation of analytics in improving policy decisions.
The basis of democratisation
However, it is not enough to simply give everyone access to analytical tools. Genuine democratisation of data and analytics requires broad knowledge of how to use the tools provided, how to choose the right data and then interpret the findings. It may require a concentrated programme of learning and encouragement across the organisation. Some universities are embracing this idea and offering introductory courses in data science to students on a wide range of majors, especially business-related majors. But what about those whose university days are far behind them?
Lifelong learning is the key here, but choosing the right course or support is essential. SAS now offers seasonal analytics schools, running one per quarter. These schools are two-day live events. They are designed to provide their students with analytics skills and show them how these skills can be used in their organisation, on real-world problems. The course takes students through a process of how to work with data, covering the whole range from data preparation and discovery to deployment.
Over the course of the two days, students use SAS Visual Analytics via the new SAS Skill Builder for Students platform. This provides free access to SAS software and training materials—and this access continues after the course, so students can go back and review material again later. Broadly, the format is that each morning is guided sessions, including both workshops and practice sessions. The afternoon is for individual exercises and practice.
The sessions will include talks on creating value from data, market and technology trends, and using data science to search for predictions of ski tour difficulties. Early on the first day, students will be given a demo of SAS Visual Analytics and the platform. They will also be given support when they first start using both.
A starting point for the future
The point of these seasonal schools is not to turn out skilled data scientists. Instead, they provide a base of knowledge, and potentially a jumping-off point for future learning. Students can work towards getting their SAS Visual Analytics and Statistics Learning Badge, with guidance from those running the course, which provides a nice token to put on their CVs or LinkedIn profiles.
Others may use the seasonal schools as a way to assess their interest in analytics, and whether to take it further. If you are really interested by what you learn at the school, you might want to consider doing a more advanced course. However, if you just want to understand a bit more about data and how to use it to generate insights, then the school will provide that. You will emerge knowing more about data and its use—and understanding how to use some analytics tools. This can only help both you and your organisation.
Seasonal schools are not the whole answer to anything. However, they do have a role in play in increasing understanding and ability to use analytics, and improving data literacy across organisations. This, in turn, is an essential step in the process of democratising analytics and data, and developing data-driven organisations.
University students can sign up here for free: https://www.sas.com/sas/events/analytics-school.html
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