Data Democratization: Definition and Principles

As the world continues on its path to total digitalization, understanding and using the full potential of data plays a central role in the success of any organization in this day and age. So, bridging the gap between those with access to data and those without it is as vital as ever because it could be the make-or-break factor that decides the company’s future. And here is where data democratization comes in. 

As the name suggests, data democratization is about ensuring that each individual can use data to drive the business to success, make informed decisions, and create a positive impact. But to fully understand what this process entails, we need to dive deeper into the core of data democratization and see how democratizing data can help businesses and individuals achieve their goals and become more successful. Let’s start with the basics. 

Data Democratization Simplified

The simplest explanation of data democratization is that it involves giving access to data to a wider range of people within an organization or society. However, data democratization involves far more than just giving data access.

Namely, data democratization is an ongoing process that aims to enable everyone in the organization to understand and work with data comfortably, regardless of their technical expertise or lack thereof. Further, its primary goal is to ensure that all employees can see and analyze the data to gain valuable insights and make data-driven decisions. 

As opposed to the traditional way where only a select few groups or individuals had access to data, with data democratization, organizations can eliminate the barriers that existed before and create an inclusive environment in which different departments can easily get the data they need from another department. 

This also allows for a more democratized decision-making process, where all the relevant stakeholders can participate and make more informed decisions.

The 5 Pillars of Data Democratization

As mentioned, data democratization is not just about giving data access to more employees. It is a comprehensive process that includes sharing data but also helping end users understand it. While this process may look different for each organization, five main pillars of data democratization need to be considered so that the implementation is successful: 

Broaden data access – End users should have access to one central data source from which they can view and get the data they need.

Stimulate data use with self-service – Tools like Power BI, Tableau, and Alteryx can fuel insight generation and reduce the burden on data analysts.

Level up data literacy – Setting up training programs taught by experts will provide employees with the skills and practical knowledge needed to find, interpret, and use the data.

Create data communities – Connecting data specialists and non-specialists across different teams by establishing formal and informal communication channels where they can share knowledge, reports, and information.

Promote data value – Communicating the importance of data to everyone in the organization via corporate channels such as conferences, newsletters, and bulletin boards and motivating employees to participate in the data democratization process actively.

Types of Data Literacy

As one of the five pillars of data democratization, data literacy is a crucial component of the data democratization journey. To stay one step ahead of the competition and ensure that all employees can successfully use data to complete their day-to-day tasks, organizations worldwide are investing heavily in educating their employees and giving them access to the appropriate tools and knowledge they need.

However, because different teams work with data and use it for different purposes, the level of data literacy will vary for each team. 

  • Product Development and Engineering – these teams use data to create and build features that increase customer value and remove the ones that affect the product negatively.
  • Customer Support – team members use data generated from each user to deliver faster issue resolution and a better customer experience overall. 
  • Marketing – in this field, teams use data as a basis for creating engaging content and campaigns that will increase conversions and attract new customers.
  • Sales – data is a valuable tool for sales teams because they can use it to discern who is likely to convert/buy the product or service they are selling.
  • Executive branch – the executives of an organization use data to track business performance and see what needs to be improved.

The list goes on and on. The thing worth noting here is that while data literacy should be implemented across the board, each team must get the tools and skills relevant to their specific needs so that they can easily learn to interpret and use data.

Data Democratization Tools

Because data has become such a crucial aspect of businesses across all industries, many tools exist that can help the data democratization process and make it easier and more efficient. We will list the most used ones below.

  • Data Visualization 

With these tools, users can visualize the data they are working with and make it easier to understand. This way, a broader range of people can use the data and interpret it even if they do not have extensive data analysis knowledge. Some of the most used data visualization tools include Tableau and Power BI.

  • Data Catalogs

These catalogs include an inventory of all of the available datasets that users can search through to easily find, access, and use the data. Additionally, data catalogs can provide a central repository available to all employees, ensuring that everyone can access the data whenever needed. Some data catalog tools include CKAN and Socrata.

  • Open Data Platforms

Individuals can use open data platforms to access publicly available data. This data is reusable and can help users get the information they need for their projects. Examples of open data platforms include Data.gov and the Open Data Portal of the World Bank.

  • Data Governance

Organizations can use data governance tools to manage and protect their data assets and ensure that the data they are working with is accurate and in compliance with the relevant regulations. They can also provide a framework for sharing data securely. Some examples of data governance tools include Informatica and Collibra.

Advantages of Data Democratization 

Data democratization can help transform the way businesses conduct their day-to-day operations and create a more collaborative environment in which everyone can share and use the data the business generates. Of course, there are other benefits this process can bring, including:

  • Better data literacy across the board – In this digital era, having employees with data literacy skills can only benefit the company and give it the competitive advantage it needs to stay one step ahead of everyone else. Additionally, it will enable employees to navigate their tasks more easily and make more informed decisions.
  • Increased productivity – With the data being accessible across the entire organization and with having employees who can access and interpret it on their own, the overall productivity will increase and the decision-making process will be faster. This can also lead to better customer experience, drive innovation, and improve employee retention.
  • Added value for employees – By encouraging data literacy and teaching employees to use and interpret data, the employees themselves will add a new skill set to their roster, making them more competent and adding value to their careers and lives.
  • More transparency and accountability – Because more people can access the data, and consequently verify and validate the findings, employees will be encouraged to become more transparent and willing to collaborate with others to achieve their goals.

What Are the Main Challenges for Implementing Data Democratization?

Of course, there are some downsides to data democratization, and most of them are related to the possible challenges an organization can face while implementing it, including:

  • Data access and governance – Ensuring that all employees have access to the data within the organization requires an extensive infrastructure that can handle large data volumes without crashing. Also, it needs to be able to provide quick and easy access to users without any issues. Additionally, the organization needs to set up clear guidelines and policies for data access, so that only authorized personnel can access it and the data is not misused.  
  • Privacy – Because more people will gain access to sensitive information, the organization needs to establish security protocols to protect the data. Namely, it should clearly define who has access to the data, how it will be stored, and how it will be used.
  • Culture and acceptance – When an organization is transitioning to a more data-driven way of operating, one of the most important things to consider is how the transition will be accepted and implemented by the employees. To ensure a smooth transition, the organization’s culture needs to shift toward embracing this new way of functioning, and the employees need to be trained on how to use the data properly. This is why the organization’s leaders should promote the value of data and show their employees how it can help make their day-to-day tasks easier and more efficient.  

Data Democratization Best Practices 

To make sure that the data democratization process is successful, organizations should consider taking the following steps:

Training and Support

Providing employees with training and support is vital. All individuals at all levels of the organization should receive proper data education so they can learn how to implement data analysis in their work. Additionally, technical employees should offer support to the non-technical ones and help them with any data-related questions and issues they might have. Further, the organization’s leaders should encourage employees to share their concerns freely. This way, the employees will have all the tools they need to learn how to successfully make data-driven decisions on their own.

Clear Guidelines and Policies

As mentioned, one of the biggest challenges related to data democratization is providing everyone with access to the data while ensuring that the data is protected and not misused. So, the organization needs to define roles for data management, establish clear guidelines for data protection, and set up secure procedures for data sharing. 

Data Analysis Tools

To ensure the success of the data democratization process, organizations should invest in data analytics tools and software so that employees can transform data into actionable insights easily. This will empower non-technical individuals to use data in their daily operations, which will enable them to make more informed decisions and become more productive.

Knowledge-Sharing and Collaboration

The ultimate goal of data democratization is to make information available to everyone so that they can work together to achieve the organization’s goals. Therefore, it is vital to encourage knowledge-sharing and collaboration and set up channels where members from different teams can easily communicate with each other and share information. 

How We Do It

As a consulting company, Data Masters delivers the best practices within one organization, and our goal is to create solutions that meet customers’ needs and provide the best value and outcome. 

Our methodology of work combines consulting, education, and implementation.

Consulting involves tailoring the best possible solution for the company, defining the best data strategies for the client, and helping in prioritizing the execution.

Education, which is an integral part of Data Masters, is a combination of workshops and sessions with the business users and provides both acceptance and early feedback, so the users may gain as much knowledge as possible from the solution, incrementally.  

Finally, the third piece of the puzzle is the implementation, which is where our consultants will “walk the talk” and deliver the best practices on the market in terms of solution design, architecture, and processes to each client.

Conclusion

If the recent past is any indication, we can confidently say that data will continue to play a central role not only in business but also in our daily lives. Therefore, organizations worldwide must treat it as such and start using its full potential.

Of course, data democratization is no simple feat. However, if done correctly and meticulously, the results and effects it could have on the organization as a whole are worth the effort. 

Namely, by enabling all employees to access the data and training them to interpret and use it on their own, they will be able to make more informed decisions, collaborate freely, and drive innovation.