What is Data Democratisation, and What Can it Do for Your Business?
March 21, 2023
The beauty of our ultra-online, digital-first age is that for the first time ever, data really is everywhere. Everyone has the world at their fingertips it seems: a democratisation of information unlike any prior. Organisations of all sizes can tap into this wealth of information and use it to better their business—in theory.
In actuality, this flood of data has inundated many businesses. When trying to fish value from the wide sea of information, c-suite decision-makers find themselves quickly overwhelmed. Most companies will admit that their data collection and synthesis is a bit of a mess. The sheer abundance of data coming at a business from all angles has caused a data management crisis where meaning, context, and governance have not kept up.
While the full democratisation of information may be the goal, if your team can’t interpret what data is relevant, they can’t properly synthesise it and wield it to its full potential. It goes without saying that when each department has its own native data organisation process, they don’t always meld well into one corporate overview that’s vital for decision-making. Rather than optimising processes, this slows down the whole organisation—and may actually cost you revenue.
It would seem, then, that while democratisation is undoubtedly a plus, striking the right balance between a free-for-all and a managed stream is the feat of the hour. How can you find the balance? A balance that simplifies data for team members of all technical levels to use and maintains security, while also encouraging free and abundant access? A true democratisation of data?
What is Data Democratisation?
At the basest meaning of the term, data democratisation simply entails expanding data access to more people. No longer is data solely the purview of data scientists, now everyone in the organisation has a part to play. However, the exact extent to which unlimited access constitutes “democratisation” is up for some debate. As the concept evolves, different organisations interpret the term somewhat differently.
Consider a spectrum bridging the two concepts:
Traditionally, data would flow through specific gatekeepers as part of a rigorously controlled data governance programme. This protects organisational data, but also makes it impractical for people to access the data they need, when they need it. An excessive limitation of information flow—in the name of due diligence—prevents relevant data from reaching its destination.
On the other extreme, certain quarters advocate making information available directly to anyone within the organisation. However, this light touch data management exposes you to a higher risk of costly data breaches—and in some cases is not even legal, such as when handling financial information or other sensitive data. Not to mention that unfettered access to raw data is not particularly useful for less technically-attuned team members, and can just confuse more than it helps. While on its face a full democratisation of data, this simple opening of the floodgates often does more harm than good.
To truly democratise data in the workplace, you need to find a balance between these two extremes, satisfying the demand for more access while also maintaining appropriate controls. When you find your organisation’s unique formula, this equilibrium offers the best of both worlds. It’s neither unresponsive authoritarianism nor unruly anarchy, but a balanced and open exchange.
Why is Data Democratisation Essential to Your Business?
Effective data management can propel your business to new performance heights. The ability to access and interpret data in real-time results in speedier decision-making, which in turn creates more agile teams with an edge against slower, data-stingy competitors.
But, as discussed, it’s not just about giving more people access to raw data. Unrestricted access to unsynthesised information does nothing to help less-tech-savvy team members—and is risky. Some level of data processing is still essential in order to string together the whole story for users.
Consider, as an example, large banks, retailers, and online services, that share client information with thousands of employees. In a raw dump of data (the “full democratisation” some envision), these employees all suddenly have access to highly sensitive—and often irrelevant—information, which is also prone to leak.
A true democratisation effort on the other hand, would make this information available, but direct it where it needs to go: into the hands that can use it best. Rather than accessing snippets of unrelated, unprocessed information, seeing the whole picture at once can empower team members to better innovate and make informed decisions.
This organisation and strategic dissemination of data enable greater collaboration.
Data producers (and the people who wind up using that data) can seamlessly share information for the whole organisation’s benefit. Democratisation increases trust and transparency, making operations more productive. And as you continue adding data, the system becomes increasingly valuable.
Too many businesses struggle with delays, data silos, and archaic processes. Now is the time to modernise your legacy systems and streamline your information flows.
Getting Started With Data Democratisation
The first step in democratising your business’ data is to learn what functionalities are available and how they align with your needs. In order to know where you want to go, you first have to understand where you are.
Where Are You Now?
Analyse what data you collect, how you synthesise it, as well as what requirements you must adhere to and what drives your data collection efforts. Essentially, you want to determine which technical problems you need to solve and which business goals you can achieve.
What’s Your “Why”?
Identifying your drivers at the start will help you coordinate your efforts with your business goals as a North Star. Whatever the solution—be it strategic, financial, or operational pivots—having a clear sense of direction makes democratisation easier.
Where Are You Going?
Going back to that spectrum of “total control” to “total freedom,” upon appraisal, where do you find your business falls? Why? These questions give insight into your data culture. They also inform you how best to attain your democratisation objectives. What products or training do your people need? How will they use them?
This assessment stage is a great time to reach out for for a little outside professional help. Analysis can be quite a challenging process on your own. After all, it’s not just about the raw data. It’s also about understanding and cataloguing your assets, methods, and domains.
Prolifics can cast a fresh eye over your processes and help determine how you can best democratise your data.
How Will You Get There?
Once you develop a clear picture of where you’d like to go, it’s time to make a plan to get there. This plan will outline which specific modifications to make to your systems and processes.
Achieving true data democratisation means bringing together all your various raw data sources into a user-friendly whole. Thus, the quality of connectors for bringing in that data without corruption or loss is paramount to later use. Note that the data is dynamic: you want live data to keep your staff abreast of the latest information. The tools you use must accommodate this ever-changing nature.
Modern AI-powered analytics tools can process your data in detail to extract contextual details. Then you can incorporate the results through a user interface that enables people of any technical ability to understand and use—and trust—the data.
Too often people are deterred by the seemingly complicated nature of data democratisation, but it’s actually quite feasible. In fact, it’s not the complexity that organisations need to sort out, but rather the basics. Establishing the right foundation for data management—a foundation that tells you the who, what, where, when, and how of data access—will enable you to make clear, decisive steps forward.
Democratise Your Data with Prolifics
The technology and knowledge are available now to better prepare for the future of data management. As business intelligence tools increase in sophistication, organisations must grab this opportunity to put data where it belongs: front and centre, in the hands of workers who need it.
Data democratisation speeds up your workflows, clearing the path for information to support real-time decisions. While every business has its own optimal procedure, the best approach finds the happy medium between excessive restriction and an uncontrolled data deluge.
Of course, finding that happy medium can prove a challenge on your own. That’s why it helps to have a pro in your business’ corner. In comes Prolifics.
Prolifics comes to the table with decades of experience in helping companies manage data across industries, including finance, retail, and logistics. With us as your guide, you can efficiently proceed through the stages of data democratisation. From identifying your situation and needs to developing a plan and finally implementing a successful transition, we’ll make your democratisation process a breeze.
Are you ready to modernise your team’s data consumption and meet the digital era head-on? Let’s move your business into the future—democratise your data with Prolifics!