Why data democratization is crucial to your business

Data democratization will catapult companies to new heights of performance—if done right

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In the Information Age, the power of data has been mostly kept in the hands of a few data analysts with the skills and understanding necessary to properly organize, crunch, and interpret the data for their organization. This approach was born out of necessity—most employees were not trained how to effectively use the growing flood of data.

But things have changed with the emergence of technologies capable of making data shareable and interpretable for nondata analysts. Data democratization allows data to pass safely from the hands of a few analysts into the hands of the masses in a company.

Data democratization is a game-changer

Data democratization will catapult companies to new heights of performance, if done right. Indeed, the utopian vision of data democratization is hard to refuse.

“Data democratization means that everybody has access to data and there are no gatekeepers that create a bottleneck at the gateway to the data. The goal is to have anybody use data at any time to make decisions with no barriers to access or understanding,” says Bernard Marr, bestselling author of Big Data in Practice.

The ability to instantly access and understand data will translate into faster decision-making, and that will translate into more agile teams. Those teams will have a competitive advantage over slower data-stingy businesses.

But Marr believes it’s about more than just being able to take instant action. “When you allow data access to any tier of your company, it empowers individuals at all levels of ownership and responsibility to use the data in their decision making,” he says. If the current situation encourages team members to go around data to get things done on time, data democratization creates team members that are more data-driven.

When things happen in a good or bad sense, and the right people are proactively informed, those people can dig into and understand those anomalies and be proactively informed.

Ultimately, for marketers striving to create the ultimate customer experience, data democratization is a must. The question on their minds should not be if data democratization is coming, but how they can create it in their organization quickly and efficiently. as quickly as possible.

Laying the foundation for data democratization

Businesses that wish to benefit from data democratization will have to create it intentionally. This means an organizational investment must be made in terms of budget, software, and training. 

In the world of data democratization, breaking down information silos is the first step toward user empowerment. This cannot be done without customizable analytics tools capable of desegregating and connecting previously siloed data making it manageable from a single place.

Ideally, the tools will filter the data and visualizations shared with each individual—whether they are an executive, a director, or a designer—according to each person’s role. Marketing managers, for instance, will need data that allows them to analyze customer segments leading up to a new campaign. CMOs, on the other hand, will need data that allows them to analyze marketing ROI as they build next year’s budgets.

Those tools must help employees visualize their data. The ability to access data points in a visual way that consumers of the data can be comfortable with is important. These visualizations must align with the organization’s KPIs: metrics, goals, targets, and objectives that have been aligned from the top-down that enable data-driven decisions.

With the right tools in place, team training becomes the next essential step. Because data democratization depends on the concept of self-service analytics, every team member must be trained up to a minimum level of comfort with the tools, concepts, and processes involved to participate.

Last, you cannot have a democracy without checks and balances. The final step to sharing data across your data governance. Mismanagement or misinterpretation of data is a real concern. Therefore, a center of excellence is recommended to keep the use of data on the straight and narrow. This center of excellence should have a goal to drive adoption of data usage which is made possible by owning data accuracy, curation, sharing, and training. These teams are often most successful when they have budget, a cross-section of skillsets, and executive approval.

When executed this way, sharing data can allow every player on your team to realize the value of that data. Fortunately, we don’t have to wait for the future to see what marketing teams can accomplish when this powerful resource is available to them.

The future of data democratization is now

For a sterling example of data democratization in action, you need look no further than the Royal Bank of Scotland, a client of my company Adobe Systems. The bank’s digital marketing leaders invited representatives from multiple parts of its business—including its call center, human resources, and legal department—to help optimize parts of the customer experience. Working off the same data, these nonmarketers could bring fresh insights to the marketing process and revolutionize the bank’s customer experience.

 “Raising visibility from our digital marketing platform and data-driven strategies was vital to the shift,” says the bank’s head of analytics, Giles Richardson. “We had to have concrete, measurable insights and ways for our cross-functional teams to act on them to propel RBS into its next chapter.”

For the Royal Bank of Scotland and other businesses interested in making the move toward data democratization, the journey is not measured in reaching a single destination. It has to be viewed as an ongoing process.

“Expect that data democratization is an evolution where each individual small win, when nontechnical users gain insight because of accessing the data, adds up to ultimately prove the merits of data democratization,” says Marr.

Data democratization is the future of managing big data and realizing its value. Businesses armed with the right tools and understanding are succeeding today because they are arming all their employees with the knowledge necessary to make smart decisions and provide better customer experiences.

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