Thanks to the emergence of new technologies in the Information Age, businesses are saturated with considerable amounts of data of every size. Until not too long ago, data was only managed by a few professionals from the IT department with the appropriate competencies of processing, interpreting, and organizing data. This approach was mainly derived because most non-technical professionals within the organization were not appropriately trained on using a growing flow of data effectively.
Things have changed nowadays, and the demand for managing and understanding data at every level has become increasingly pressing. From here, the desire and need for data democratization aim to create a data-driven culture within the entire organization.
What is data democratization?
Data democratization is the process of allowing non-technical figures to access, understand, and analyze corporate data without depending on the IT department. The aim is to ensure no barriers prevent the different business areas from benefiting from their information assets and making future decisions more consciously.
Non-technical professionals can manage a more significant number of analyses, extractions, reports, KPIs, and so on, not continuously depending on IT for every request concerning data. In other words, the main challenge of data democratization is to remove barriers within corporate knowledge. In this way, standardized self-service approaches are favored over traditional ones that require IT requests, with a waste of time and misunderstandings, with final results that often do not satisfy end customers.
Why is data democratization helpful for your business?
The four main factors why data democratization is crucial for your business include:
Firstly, allowing any level of expertise to make the most of the power of data is the primary step to promote a data-driven culture, besides the buy-in of high-level professionals for future initiatives regarding the use of data as a medium to achieve one’s goal.
Secondly, the increasing request for analysis, dashboards, and reports from the business department is becoming a growing burden of the IT department.
In order to efficiently respond to these requests, the IT area should hire new professionals with hard skills related to information processing. In addition to the economic factor that would affect the organization, searching, hiring, and training new professionals is a much slower process that does not coincide with the intense rhythms with which data and analysis are requested.
Relegating data knowledge to a few IT professionals would be such a problem for both the business and the IT area. On the business side, they should submit to the IT technical times, which are often too slow; on the contrary, the difficulty would arise in communicating with less trained professionals concerning the data field.
These factors explain the importance of democratizing data across all working departments to gain a competitive advantage.
Data democratization challenges
Ensuring that data democratization is implemented requires facing some challenges, both at the IT and business levels, so that a qualitative leap can be achieved in the way data is used.
It’s fundamental to define the data perimeter to be made available. Democratizing data doesn’t mean sharing every data within the organization, rather only the most relevant ones according to the corporate data strategy. Defining a correct data perimeter, thus excluding data with a low level of cleanliness and quality, prevents professionals of the business department from drawing wrong conclusions.
It’s also crucial to facilitate data access by eliminating the boundaries created by silos, even providing specialized repositories, such as data warehouse and data lake, storing data from multiple sources, and adding preprocessed information. In order to provide usable, shareable, and understandable data to the business users, it’s crucial from the IT area not to expose raw data. Still, a metadata layer is a data model that has already undergone previous processing.
Data democratization doesn’t mean creating indiscriminate access to sensitive corporate data. The IT area must implement data governance suitable for democratization, deciding this way the professionals allowed to visualize certain information depending on their role within the company. The access governance will also shift the ownership on specific issues, such as reporting, documentation, and data quality that can be delegated to the business area.
Training the non-technical employees to proper use of data (data knowledge) is one of the most complicated challenges about data democratization, making these professionals autonomous in the choice of sources, analysis of data, and use the information to create a competitive advantage within the organization. It’s crucial to organize specific training sessions regarding the proper use of data, starting from basic training on tools to workshops, case studies, and gamification paths to create engagement among people.
Data democratization’s tools and software
Some software cannot go without mentioning before we end up this article, that is a significant help for anyone outside the IT department, that is:
data federation software: collects data from a variety of sources into a virtual database.
data virtualization software: retrieve and manipulate data without technical details, such as how data is formatted at source or where it is physically located.
cloud storage: is an application data storage and backup platform that helps, no doubt, avoid data silos which, as is well known, has been an obstacle to data democratization in the past.
self-service BI tools: allow employees without a technical background to manage and interpret data efficiently or create their analyses.
data visualization tools: these data visualization and collaboration tools help businesses of every size to visualize and share data and get a clean opinion based on the insights.
In conclusion, data democratization substantially impacts the whole organization because it allows every employee to enrich and empower their contribution in the decision-making process, thus contributing to better customer experiences. The more professionals with heterogeneous skills will easily access data, the faster the organization will identify problems and business opportunities.