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Data literacy.

What exactly does that mean? To some, it’s as simple as understanding what provided data means. Others describe it as the ability to read, work with, analyze and effectively convey data. Forbes said data literacy means to use data effectively for business actions and outcomes.

One of the goals of the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command Data and Analytics Center, established in September, is to establish, formalize and govern data and analytics processes. Part of that is increasing the data literacy across the AMCOM workforce.

“It’s a skillset,” said Francisco “Frank” Villanueva, AMCOM chief data steward. “People think of data literacy and they think of the technical aspect: ‘What tools do I need?’ … [But] to be data literate means that you understand how to read, analyze and answer a question with [given] data.”

The way Villanueva sees it, the more the workforce understands where data comes from and how to use it, the more efficient employees will be in providing answers and applying the available data in context.

AMCOM’s Data and Analytics Strategy was recently signed by the commanding general and it outlines elements that will create an enduring and outcome-driven strategy.

“I hope we all begin to place more emphasis on our data quality,” said Maj. Gen. Todd Royar, AMCOM commander. “Just a few individuals unintentionally entering incorrect data may result in some really poor decisions and none of us want that.”

The first step in creating a data-fluent organization is an assessment of the skillsets applicable to the work completed in AMCOM.

“Not everybody can become a data scientist,” Villanueva said “There are different levels of needs and requirements.” He said AMCOM will look at how many data scientists are needed versus how many people only need to understand data and become data fluent.

The assessment may involve a third party to ensure there’s no bias in the decisions being made and to make sure AMCOM’s Data and Analytics Center is not focusing on one area but that policies apply to the entire organization.

Once a baseline is established, the goal is to develop a program applicable to all, regardless of whether employees are logistics specialists, contractors or in any other category.

Villanueva said the training won’t be about teaching things like Excel or Power BI, which Microsoft explains is “a collection of software services, apps, and connectors that work together to turn your unrelated sources of data into coherent, visually immersive, and interactive insights.”

“The initial phases are going to be very basic – introductory, if you will,” he said. “We have to identify people that need to be data fluent versus people that need to be data smart versus the people that need to be data experts.”

AMCOM’s chief data steward said people are sometimes hesitant to embrace technology that is new to them, but they shouldn’t be in this case.

“It’s completely opposite,” Villanueva said. “Data fluency is not technical in nature – it’s a skill. Some people see data as a language, so you’re trying to learn a new language. So how do I apply and answer questions with this new language that I have, which is data? Don’t look at that as a tool or technology or a computer; look at it as a new way to speak.”

Within the next 12 to 18 months, Villanueva said there should be training in place to assist AMCOM employees as they strive for data literacy. Conversations are underway with AMCOM G-1 to establish a training program.

“The whole point of data fluency is that we will be more efficient when we speak about data and how we use data,” he said. “It will be an enduring effort and it will be maturing along the way and [we will] continue to [assess] what intermediate and advanced training will look like.”

“The good and bad thing about technology is that every day somebody finds a better way to do things, so it’s ever-evolving,” he said. “The technologies are going to mature and are going to evolve, but the principles of data literacy will not change.”