Has the Time Come to Democratize Your Data?

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Tuesday, September 7, 2021

What is data democratization and why should you consider it for your business?

Article 4 Minutes
Has the Time Come to Democratize Your Data?

Every business today will want to collect as much data as possible in order to make better-informed decisions, improve productivity and deliver better products and services to their customers. And in today's environment, it's easier than ever to gather information.

Whether it's keeping track of customers' buying habits, monitoring trends in the wider market or assessing the performance of your employees to identify where improvements can be made, there are a huge range of sources you can tap into to gain insight and improve your performance.

However, it's one thing to have this data. It's quite another to be able to use it effectively. This is why a strong data analytics strategy is such a vital part of any business. Yet in many operations, the effectiveness of these activities is hampered by the fact they're only being carried out by people within the IT department.

While these personnel may well have a vast range of knowledge about how to manage data, they may not always know how best to apply this to business units. This is where data democratization comes in.

What does data democratization mean?

Data democratization means providing access to analytics tools to people throughout the business, especially those without any great technical knowledge. This means everyone has access to the same source material, so non-specialists are able to gather and analyze this information and develop usable insights on their own.

However, this is about more than simply opening up data to non-IT employees. These processes must also ensure non-expert staff have the tools and understanding to feel comfortable working with the data. They need to be able to trust both their own skills and that the data they're working with is accurate and relevant.

4 reasons to undergo data democratization

Breaking free from traditional data governance models such as IT ownership and siloed systems, where data is collected with a specific task in mind, can be a major change in mindset for many firms. Therefore, before doing so it's important to understand exactly what you hope to get out of this strategy.

Some of the major benefits of data democratization include:

1. Empowering teams

Putting the power to make data-driven decisions into the hands of business units gives them a greater connection to the data, allows them to think more critically about their activities, and be more proactive in how they improve their operations.

2. Improving accountability

When business units take ownership of data, they're responsible for the success - or failure - of any actions they take based on their analysis. Rewarding teams for taking the initiative also helps boost innovation and lets individuals take control of their direction.

3. Gaining different viewpoints

Allowing non-specialists to work on data often means they can approach the analytics process from a different direction to IT pros, who may only have a limited view of what's most relevant or what insight can be drawn from the results.

4. Faster decision making

Not having to go via the IT department means teams can access results quicker. This may be especially useful in large companies, where multiple departments can run their own processes simultaneously instead of having to wait for IT-led analytics.

Making your data democratization a success

Getting data democratization to work successfully, however, can be a challenging process. As well as ensuring the tools in place are simple enough to be used by non-experts and are powerful enough to provide quality results, you need to think about issues such as privacy, access control and anonymization to ensure you're not falling foul of any regulations.

Therefore, in order to make data democratization work for your business, there are a few key areas you need to focus on. These include:

Data collection

The first step is to understand exactly how you're collecting and loading data into your system. This ensures your employees aren't working with irrelevant, outdated or duplicated data. You need to be aware of where it's coming from to ensure the sources are trustworthy and up-to-date, as well as exactly what the data consists of. For instance, is it highly structured information, or will it require more effort to extract it to a format your teams can work with?

Data storage

Once data is in your business, it needs to be easily accessible for the right people. If data is still contained within discrete siloes, it’ll be impossible for teams to get a complete picture. Even if you’re breaking down these siloes, you still need to ensure integration with other key systems such as customer relationship management tools so insights can be easily shared.

Data governance

If data isn't owned or managed directly by the IT department, it's essential to establish exactly who’s responsible for it. A good data democratization strategy should spell out how data is accessed and keep full auditable records of this - something that may be especially important in the current working environment where personally identifiable data may be more likely to to be accessed remotely.

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