Every business is inundated with data from all angles. There is pressure to use the information we glean from the data to improve business performance. With this incredible amount of data to process and new technologies that are helping non-technical people make sense of data, there is a desire and demand for the democratization of data. Let’s explain what this means, the pros / cons of data democratization and the technological innovation that has emerged to support this effort.
What is the democratization of data?
The democratization of data means that everyone has access to the data and that there are no gatekeepers who create a bottleneck at the gateway to the data. It requires that we accompany access with an easy way for people to understand the data so that they can use it to accelerate decision-making and uncover opportunities for an organization. The goal is for anyone to use the data at all times to make decisions without barriers to access or understanding.
Until recently, the data belonged to IT departments. Business units like marketing, business analysts, and executives used the data to make business decisions, but they still had to go through IT to get the data. It’s been like this for almost five decades and there are still some who think it should stay that way.
Why should there be a democratization of data?
Advocates of data democratization believe that it is imperative to disseminate information among all work teams to gain competitive advantage. More people with diverse expertise who have the ability to access data easily and quickly will enable your organization to identify and take action on critical business information. Many professionals believe that the democratization of data is a game-changer. When you allow access to data at any level in your business, it allows individuals at all levels of ownership and responsibility to use the data in their decision-making.
Concerns about the democratization of data
Some organizations are still concerned that a misinterpretation of data by non-technical employees could occur and that these employees then make bad decisions based on their misinterpretation of the data. In addition, the more users who have access to the data, the greater the data security risk and the more difficult it is to maintain data integrity. Some data still exists in silos; Although there has been a great improvement in recent years, this reality can further complicate data access and visualization by people in different departments. Another concern regarding the democratization of data is the duplication of efforts between different teams which could be more expensive than a centralized analysis group.
Technological innovation that propels the democratization of data
One of the reasons democratizing data is now more appealing is the incredible amount of data being created, which we often refer to as Big data. Additionally, there have been technological innovations that help make sense of data for non-technical people. Here are some examples :
Data virtualization software: Data virtualization software retrieves and manipulates data without knowing the technical details. This avoids the problem of having to clean up inconsistencies in data or different file formats.
Data Federation Software: This software uses metadata to aggregate data from various sources into a virtual database.
Cloud storage: One of the ways organizations avoid data silos that prevented data democratization in the past is to use cloud storage as a central location to store data. Database management security features encrypt or mask data to enhance security.
Self-service BI applications: These applications make it easier for non-technical users to interpret data analysis. Now we can take a hard look at the data and explain it to non-technical users.
The democratization of data is an evolution
Any organization that democratizes data must have strong governance to ensure that data is managed with care. Everyone in the organization should be properly trained on how best to use data to drive business initiatives and progress. Expect data democratization to be an evolution where every little individual wins as non-technical users gain insight due to data access add up to ultimately prove the merits of data democratization.
While it is still too early to know the full impact of the complete democratization of data in all businesses, there is still widespread hope that it will revolutionize our business decision making by empowering employees at all levels to ” access and derive information from the data collected by their organizations.