Data democratization is the continuous process of enabling knowledge workers (people who create, analyze, and distribute knowledge) within an organization to understand, analyze, discuss, and use data to answer questions.
Because of that, data democratization is about more than increasing data access. (Though, data access is a crucial aspect of democratizing data.)
Instead, data democratization is about empowering people of all technical backgrounds to use the right data in their roles to make optimal business decisions so the business can gain a competitive advantage.
The data democratization process includes multiples steps, including enabling organizations to:
- Use all their data sources to their full potential
- Break down siloes and barriers to data access
- Foster a culture of transparency and collaboration
- Innovate and deliver better business outcomes
- Attract and retain talent plus provide career growth opportunities
Of course, this doesn’t mean that organizations should provide unrestricted access to data without governance or safeguards.
Data democratization requires a balance between access and security, and it also requires organizations to ensure data quality and privacy that’s compliant with all relevant regulations.
Because of this, an effective data governance framework and security measures are necessary to protect sensitive information even as you expand data access across your organization.
It also means that data democratization is no longer an IT-only process. Although technical tasks such as data integration and data security will still be in the hands of IT department, the emphasis on an organization-wide effort means that all departments will have a role to play in this process.
Benefits of Data Democratization
- Enabling knowledge workers to access and analyze data
- Providing tools for data analysis
- Growing understanding, skills, and experience with data and analytics through data democratization
Increased Data Literacy
- Exposing people to data and analytics
- Providing tools for data analysis
- Enhancing understanding and usage of data through a data literacy program
Faster Decision Making
- Expanding access to readily available data
- Empowering individuals to handle data analysis
- Accelerating decision-making processes within the organization
- Embracing diverse perspectives and ideas
- Utilizing data democratization for exploring new ideas
- Uncovering patterns and identifying hidden opportunities
Improved Collaboration and Problem-Solving
- Breaking down data silos through data democratization
- Promoting collaboration across teams and departments
- Using data for collaborative problem-solving and decision-making
How to Enable a Cultural Shift and Empower Data Literacy
One of the biggest reasons companies push back on data democratization projects is because they’re risk averse. Most organizations hesitate to increase access to data, especially sensitive or proprietary data.
Because of that, enabling a cultural shift towards data-driven decision-making and increasing data literacy within an organization requires a concerted effort. Here are some key strategies to consider:
Leadership Support and Buy-In
Let’s face it, your data democratization efforts won’t go anywhere without leaders supporting them. To secure support, you need to clearly communicate the benefits of data democratization while addressing potential risks. And you need to establish clear goals as part of this process, including the expected outcomes, what training will be provided, and the resources required to help support employees.
Training and Education
Training and education can either cost money or be free. There are plenty of comprehensive training programs available online. However, some companies provide resources such as workshops, online courses, and software training along with their software. You can ask a company that makes analytics software or an analytics platform what other companies have done to train their employees and increase data literacy.
Break Down Siloes
Maybe one of the biggest hurdles to data democratization is getting other people to feel comfortable sharing their data. People will guard their data because of what it means for their job and role. Explaining how breaking down departmental silos and encouraging collaboration can lead to better organizational results can help make this process smoother.
Develop Clear Policies and Standards
Because there are risks involved with increasing data access to an entire organization, you’ll need to develop clear policies and standards for data governance. Guidelines should include criteria for maintaining data quality, security, and compliance. They should also define roles and responsibilities for data management that ensure accountability and transparency.
Create a Safe and Encouraging Learning Environment
No matter how much work you do to break down silos, get everyone on board, and set up data governance policies, employees may hesitate to dive into the world of analytics. This hesitancy may be due to employees feeling uncomfortable using data and worrying about making mistakes.
Creating a safe environment for employees to experiment with data and learn from their successes and failures will help encourage curiosity, exploration, and growth. Consider regularly assessing the effectiveness of any data literacy initiatives you have and making adjustments as needed. Always seek feedback from your employees to identify challenges and areas for improvement.
Remember, enabling a cultural shift and empowering data literacy is an ongoing process. It requires consistent effort, support, and adaptability to ensure that the organization embraces a data-driven mindset and maximizes the value of its data assets.
Data Democratization Tools
For successful data democratization projects, having the right tools in place is crucial to enable easy access and utilization of data across the organization. Here are some essential tools and technologies to consider:
Data warehouses, data lakes, cloud storage, local storage, and more
You may already have these within your organization, especially local storage. However, you should consider which data storage options best serve your data democratization needs.
Data and analytics platforms that handle ELT processes, machine learning, data science, and AI
Because of the difference in data skill sets, many people may only have experience with spreadsheets or other commonly used tools. To help upscale your entire organization and see the most significant benefit from any data democratization initiative, you should look for platforms that enable people of any background to work with their data and apply machine learning and other advanced analytical techniques to get answers.
Self-service analytics tools and platforms that provide low-code, no-code usage, such as drag-and-drop automation
While highly specialized fields and trained data scientists may prefer using code, many of your non-technical users will want — and need — self-service and automated tools. Look for software that can automatically generate business intelligence, visualizations, surface trends, and identify outliers and anomalies in data.
Tools that also provide automated reporting services, such as dashboards, graphs, and charts, plus the ability to automatically schedule the sending of those reports, are a plus.
Data catalogs, metadata management tools, and other helpful tools that help people discover analytics assets
To reduce the chances of duplication and increase collaboration amongst different teams, ensure that any solutions you implement contain tools that help people search, discover, label, and manage analytic assets.
Data governance tools that help set appropriate permission levels
Because of the potential risk of increasing data access across an entire organization, ensure that any analytics platform or tools you set up come equipped with data governance tools and settings you can use to set appropriate permission levels.
Best Practices and Steps to Get Started
Although we’ve covered most of the best practices and steps you can use to get started on a data democratization initiative, here’s a checklist you can use:
Assess Your Analytics Maturity
- Take an assessment to understand your organization’s current strengths and weaknesses.
- Use the results to plan your next steps.
Define Clear Objectives
- Identify your organization’s goals and metrics for data democratization.
- Determine how data democratization aligns with your overall business strategy and desired outcomes.
Assess Data Infrastructure:
- Evaluate your existing data infrastructure and identify any gaps or areas for improvement.
- Consider the scalability, flexibility, and security of your data storage and processing capabilities.
Establish Data Governance:
- Implement data governance practices to ensure data quality, security, and compliance.
- Define roles, responsibilities, and processes for managing data access, usage, and permissions.
Foster Data Literacy:
- Invest in training and education programs to enhance data literacy skills across the organization.
- Provide resources such as workshops, online courses, and internal knowledge-sharing platforms.
Start Small, Iterate, and Scale:
- Begin with a pilot project or a specific business area to demonstrate the value of data democratization.
- Gather feedback, iterate on the approach, and gradually expand the scope to different departments and use cases.
Identify Data Champions:
- Identify individuals who are passionate about data and can serve as advocates for data democratization.
- Encourage these champions to lead by example and promote data-driven practices within their teams.
Enhance Data Accessibility:
- Simplify data access by implementing self-service tools and user-friendly interfaces.
- Ensure that data is easily discoverable, searchable, and available to relevant stakeholders.
- Foster a culture of collaboration and knowledge sharing around data.
- Encourage cross-functional teams to work together on data-driven initiatives and share insights.
Continuously Monitor and Improve:
- Regularly assess the impact of data democratization efforts and gather feedback from business users
- Use analytics and key performance indicators to measure success and identify areas for improvement.
Remember, data democratization is a journey requiring ongoing commitment and effort. By following these best practices and taking incremental steps, you can lay the foundation for a successful data democratization initiative and unlock the full potential of your organization’s data.