In the race to gain a competitive advantage, data democratization is not only the future of data governance—it’s a critical component of digital business survival.
With the ongoing digital transformation across all industries, companies today are striving to be data-driven when making decisions. But the ability to gather and analyze this information in a holistic way has historically been a challenge.
For digital organizations to truly be competitive, they must democratize their data. Giving teams widespread access to information—and keeping it all within the same platform—is a must for any business that wants to empower its employees to make informed decisions.
What is data democratization?
Data democratization allows business users from teams across an organization and with any level of technical expertise to gather and analyze data independently. There are three core aspects to democratizing data:
- Availability. Is the data teams seek actually being collected?
- Access. Can the teams who use the data retrieve it independently?
- Insights. Are all teams empowered to make decisions based on the numbers?
Why is data democratization important?
With the right strategy for democratizing data, companies can boost profitability, increase innovation and optimize user experiences:
- It reduces the cost of information access
- It creates efficiency within teams and across the organization
- It empowers individuals at all levels of ownership and responsibility with the knowledge necessary to add value to the business
Why aren’t more businesses democratizing data?
The amount of internal and external data collected and used by businesses continues to grow. But gathering that data is easy—the hard part is using it effectively.
Although businesses recognize that data is a strategic priority, their ability to effectively democratize it can face a range of diverse challenges:
- Exponential volume. The amount of data being collected has increased beyond anything imaginable at the dawn of the internet and will continue to rise exponentially. The quantity leads to analysis in silos because the size of the dataset alone is difficult to navigate.
- Increased velocity. Datasets are growing—and so is the rate at which it’s collected, making navigation even more complicated.
- Complex ecosystems. More data means more platforms and clouds for storage. But getting those platforms to share information is convoluted since they have different definitions for the same numbers, opening the potential for inconsistencies.
Here’s how to overcome those challenges and make data democratization a true differentiator for your business.
Get people in place
Data democratization is driven by technology but only made possible by the people who keep organizations running. Before you begin the process of democratizing data, ensure the team is set up for success.
Make data-driven a mindset
Companies are usually not set up to be truly data-driven. Traditionally, it’s been controlled by people who understand data—and needed by people who don’t. Ensure everyone who could potentially benefit from data democratization understands its positive, wide-reaching implications to get them on board.
Assemble the right contributors
With people leading the way to data democratization, companies should either establish specific roles or cross-functional teams to own the mandate. Specific roles could be a Chief Data or Digital Officer; cross-functional teams could include anything from data scientists and architects who are experts at the numbers to marketing specialists who already understand how to extrapolate insights.
Companies need to approach democratization holistically and make sure they have a group of employees who together have cross-platform technology capabilities, a strategic approach to solving data issues and the ability to mediate between those who don’t know anything about technology and data and those who do.
Get ahead of governance
When businesses explicitly orient their technology, processes and employees around their data, their actions deliver results. This makes it vital to adopt the right data governance approach from the outset.
Secure the strategy
Sketch out exactly how your internal and external data will be governed and applied to business problems, with a clear vision of what the organization (and individual teams) can achieve with data-driven insight.
Identify data disparity
There can be a range of technical issues that arise with moving data through an organization and departments using multiple different applications and cloud environments. The individuals in charge of data governance need to identify how to bring data together from both external sources and their own internal systems.
Keep access rights tight
The handling of sometimes-sensitive data must be subject to an access and management policy that covers the full scope of potential issues: security, privacy, responsibility, processes and rules of use. By giving users access exclusively to the data they need, you limit the chances of sensitive data being leaked either internally or externally.
Choose the right tech
It’s not possible to maintain a high level of business agility if you need to depend on analysts alone to bridge the gap between business goals and outcomes. Democratizing data is possible thanks to modern analytics solutions that can scale for any volume of data or any number of users, supporting customizable analysis for an unlimited number of business objectives.
These platforms are able to support and standardize almost every dataset that a company may track. Everyone from product developers to content marketers to acquisition specialists are able to log in and get the exact information they need in real time.
Thanks to machine learning, predictive insights are available to give these teams actionable insight. It’s no longer a matter of hunting down the data, hoping it’s correctly reconciled, and then spending time digging for the stories within it. It’s simply a matter of logging in, clicking a few buttons, and getting a recommendation for how to move forward.
Get cloud coverage
Working with large datasets in spreadsheets or across platforms isn’t sustainable. By working with a provider that hosts and supports all business data in the cloud, organizations can allow employees to access information from anywhere while enjoying automated data encryption and security.
Seek real-time reporting
Sometimes you don’t have days to make decisions. As business cycles speed up, data analysis has to match the pace. Moving away from the outdated notion of batch processing in silos, companies need to give their teams access to data that is as real-time as possible.
Utilize machine learning
It’s vital to be able to leverage advanced machine learning or other intelligent automation capabilities to inject insight into your workflows for a true democratic approach. Platform-generated insights remove guesswork from contributors who are less comfortable analyzing the numbers, so they can still feel they’re able to add tangible value when it comes to providing analysis.
Set the standards of success
With the right people and platform in place, set the stage for success with data democratization by ensuring the organization is ready to analyze the effectiveness of the new approach:
- Ensure the data steward (or stewards, depending on the structure of your team) has established key performance indicators (KPIs) that are inclusive of every team wanting to make data-driven decisions.
- Consider both qualitative and quantitative analysis to verify the validity of insights. In other words: make sure data supports gut instincts, and use employee expertise to consider the real-life implications of any data analysis outcomes before making a move.
- Establish continuous learning and feedback loops so employees can share feedback or best practices to make data truly democratized for all.
This article was first published on the Piano blog and is republished with kind permission. Piano helps the world’s biggest media companies build dedicated audiences and increase revenues.