Demystifying Data Democratization: Unleash the Power of Big Data for Everyone
Organizations collect an obscene amount of data.
However, between 60% and 73% of it goes unused for enterprise analytics.
That’s a lot of untapped value.
Although there’s plenty of technology to help leverage big data and costly data centers effectively, many organizations still consider data analytics a responsibility of IT.
But to stay competitive, that mindset must change. Agile, data-driven enterprises have already embraced data democratization: the process that shifts responsibility for data analytics from IT to all users across the organization, regardless of their technical expertise.
So if you haven’t democratized your enterprise data management strategy, now’s the time — because two-thirds (or more!) of your data shouldn’t be going to waste!
Once you get a grasp on data democratization, the solutions it poses to business and data management challenges are apparent. Yet it’s no walk in the park — you need to brace for potential barriers to adoption and keep up with the latest data-centric trends and tech.
Along the way, it’s crucial to understand the importance of data governance and why you must have a data governance framework in place before democratizing your data.
All of this below — plus a six-step roadmap to unlock the potential of (all) your enterprise data through data democratization.
What is Data Democratization?
Here’s, probably, your current situation:
Traditional data management and data analytics operations require users to submit a request to IT for the information they need beyond regularly distributed reports.
So, if a sales manager wanted to get a mid-month status report on sales revenue, they would have to wait for IT to produce and deliver the information.
As a result, their ability to make data-driven decisions or changes in sales strategy would be at the mercy of IT’s workload.
Data democratization solves this bottleneck:
The introduction of data democratization eliminates the siloed, outdated process you’re used to. Instead, it enables everyone (creators, analysts, agencies, et al) to access and make sense of the enterprise’s data regardless of their technical abilities or job function.
In this format, data ownership and responsibility is shared throughout the organization. Everyone can contribute and access with roughly the same scope (IT may still have in place safeguards, of course).
But this shift to self-service data and analytics doesn’t happen overnight.
Is Your Enterprise Ready for Data Democratization?
Like any process, data democratization must be continually monitored and promoted to drive maximum value for the organization. For established businesses, the democratization of data facilitates organizational agility and the ability to make data-driven decisions.
Once data democratization processes are in place, valuable IT professionals can focus on more critical business, technology, infrastructure, and strategy concerns.
However, taking the steps to harness the power of enterprise data may require a cultural shift; one that can only happen when the following are true of your employees:
Comfortable – Employees feel comfortable asking questions and working with data
Armed – Employees are armed with the right tools and trained accordingly
Empowered – Employees are empowered to make decisions based on self-service analytics
What Business Challenges Does Data Democratization Address?
Organizations that democratize their data can address business challenges associated with:
Information access – Data democratization unlocks access to information previously confined in a data warehouse or data lake and accessible only by IT professionals.
Resource limitations – Data democratization alleviates pressure on valuable IT resources and frees them from having to fulfill data and reporting requests.
Data enablement – Data democratization allows organizations to get value from their vast data stores by empowering users to serve as their own data analysts or data scientists.
(Data) Governance Before Data Democratization
Of course, providing unfettered access to data before you achieve data governance maturity could have a devastating impact on a business. Without a robust data governance framework, sound decision-making and regulatory compliance are virtually impossible.
But embracing and benefitting from data democratization involves walking a fine line. Organizations must ensure their efforts to expand information access don’t result in poor business decisions or sow more consumer distrust.
That’s why key elements of your data governance strategy must be rock solid before implementing data democratization processes:
Data security – Policies that safeguard data from being compromised by internal and external threats
Data privacy – Policies that control how enterprise data is collected, shared, and used
Data quality – Policies that establish standards and ensure data sets are accurate, consistent, complete, and timely
Once the transition to broader access to data is complete, IT professionals can focus on continued data standards, data governance, and compliance with regulatory and consumer privacy laws.
Barriers to Adoption and Success
There are pros and cons associated with taking on any new initiative. And although there are far more reasons organizations should democratize their data, it’s essential to acknowledge the potential downside of expanding access to information.
Poor decision making – Employees don’t suddenly achieve data literacy or become data experts just because they have access to data democratization tools. Concerns that less savvy employees might misinterpret data and make bad business decisions are a legitimate concern.
Data misuse – Expanding access to information increases the potential of valuable or sensitive data being misused. Data security is always a top priority. Whether misuse is well-intentioned or nefarious, the result is the same — exposure to data breaches, theft, regulatory non-compliance, and possible fines or reputational damage.
Duplicate data – Giving more people self-service access to the same data can result in duplicative efforts across teams and business units. This can be a costly waste of time and resources when compared to entrusting IT with data analytics and distribution.
Upfront Cost – Data democratization requires investment in technology and training. For organizations that haven’t already modernized their data warehousing and data management methods, it is even more costly. Data democratization is a strategic investment, but an investment nonetheless.
Each of these risks is mitigated if you already have effective data governance policies in place. In addition, understanding the benefits of democratizing data can also help put concerns to rest.
Core Benefits of Data Democratization
There are many reasons organizations should consider making enterprise data readily available to their users. Here are five key benefits of democratizing data.
Support a modern workforce
With just 1 in 5 back to full in-person work since the start of the pandemic, many organizations find ways to ensure their employees can be effective while working remotely. Data democratization enables users to access the information they need easily and instantly so decisions made outside the office are equally trustworthy and sound.
Empowered employees are confident and committed to meaningful business goals and take the initiative to achieve them. Simply giving more people broader access to information is empowering and provides an opportunity for every employee to influence and drive business growth. Democratizing data can also promote a collaborative culture that fosters innovation.
Being able to make decisions on a dime, supported by quality data, is a hallmark of agile, data-driven organizations. By embracing data democratization and promoting data literacy, a regular user in marketing operations can function as a data analyst while evaluating the outcome of a marketing campaign. Equipping data users with autonomous decision-making ability can earn a competitive advantage over businesses stuck in the past.
Expanding access to enterprise data streamlines operations among functional areas of the business. Removing barriers to information means less time wasted accessing individual data silos or attending project status meetings. Within a data democracy, for example, sales benefits from marketing data governance and the ability to access marketing data to monitor the leads generated by a specific campaign. And marketers can access sales data to see the effectiveness of a new marketing channel.
Enhance customer experiences
Today’s consumers expect excellent customer service — actually, they expect excellence throughout their entire customer experience or the sum of all their interactions with your brand. Businesses that give every employee involved in the customer journey access to key information are better positioned to meet customers’ expectations and changing needs.
Your 6-Step Data Democratization Strategy
Democratizing big data at scale requires a coordinated, well-executed strategy. However, assuming you’ve established essential data governance practices, you have a solid foundation for success.
Here’s a suggested six-step roadmap to follow.
1. Secure leadership committment
Data democratization supports organizations that aim to be more data-driven. This is a strategic shift requiring a significant investment in self-service analytics tools and training. So it is critical to first secure leadership support. You’ll need to demonstrate that your approach aligns with the needs and priorities of individual business units to build a true data democracy.
2. Take stock of your data ecosystem
As an organization grows, it becomes more challenging to manage the increasing volume of incoming data. And if that data remains siloed and inaccessible to most users, its potential value can never be realized.
Ensuring your processes and data infrastructure scale with the increased demand for data starts with taking stock of your data ecosystem and identifying, then addressing problematic or fragmented systems.
3. Unlock your legacy data
When it comes to legacy systems, remember: ‘There’s gold in them thar hills’. Of course, effective data democratization and data-driven decision-making don’t just involve data from the present-day forward. It’s also important to unlock the data stuck within legacy data silos and systems.
Accomplishing that is easier said than done, given the inflexibility of legacy platforms. So, it’s essential to budget for data integration tools and architecture design. Together, they’ll ensure interoperability between legacy databases, data management platforms, and cloud-based systems.
4. Make data accessible to all
Data-driven organizations don’t limit data analytics and data access to their IT departments. Instead, they empower users with (the right) access to make decisions and complete their job responsibilities more quickly and effectively.
Ensuring everyone has access to relevant data is an essential principle of data democratization. Providing that access requires an investment in user-friendly technology that’s suitable for technical and non-technical users alike. Data analysis dashboards or data visualization tools provide an easy way to view and decipher trends, outliers, and patterns in enterprise data.
5. Promote self-service
Enabling greater access to data is just one aspect of data democratization. But to harness its real power, users must incorporate data analytics and reporting into their daily work routine.
To promote self-service, of course, you’ll need the right data analysis dashboard. To compel employees to use it, you’ll need to instill trust in the enterprise data. Data management platforms, data integration solutions, and data quality software will ensure quality data and lead to better adoption.
6. Provide continued education
Non-technical users typically outnumber savvy users within an organization by a lot. That’s why effective onboarding and continuous training must be a strategic priority.
Together they’ll determine the success of your data democratization efforts. All data users must understand and feel comfortable with visualizations, dashboards, and analytics in order to leverage enterprise data as a competitive advantage.
The Future of Data Democratization
As more enterprises establish data-centric strategies and democratize their data, we can expect new trends to emerge. Here’s a sampling:
Technology development by non-IT professionals
Countless organizations have already discovered that arming all users with access to data and self-serve analytics fuels better business decisions and fosters innovation. As more organizations create data democracies, Gartner projects that by 2024, 80% of tech products and services will be built by non-IT professionals.
Innovation in patient care
Although the vast majority of medical data still resides on disparate systems, the technology for managing and leveraging patient data is widely available and constantly improving. We can expect further democratization of data to fuel new applications that leverage a central repository of healthcare data.
Data analytics tools that incorporate predictive analytics and machine learning will improve patient care, uncovering recommendations based on a 360-degree view of the patient.
Click the case study to learn how Claravine helped a leading healthcare company “collectively optimize the customer experience rather than have siloed brand activities.
Artificial intelligence’s (AI) emerging role
As more organizations democratize their data, simply providing employees with data access and self-service analytics tools won’t be enough to gain a competitive advantage. Data must also be contextualized.
More organizations will incorporate AI capabilities to provide richer analytics and predictive capabilities to help users understand why that data matters and what should be done with it.
Rolling Out a Data Democracy
Democratizing your data isn’t as simple as flipping a switch, but it is easier to achieve when you have key processes and infrastructure already in place.