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 organise, crunch and interpret the data for their organisation. This approach was born out of necessity — the majority of 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 non-data analysts. Data democratisation allows data to pass safely from the hands of a few analysts into the hands of the masses within a company.
Data democratisation is a game changer.
Data democratisation will catapult companies to new heights of performance, if done right. Indeed, the utopian vision of data democratisation is hard to refuse.
“Data democratisation 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 Bernard 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 in order to get things done on time, data democratisation 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 democratisation is a must. The question on their minds should not be if data democratisation is coming, but how they can create it in their organisation quickly and efficiently.
Laying the foundation for data democratisation.
Businesses that wish to benefit from data democratisation will have to create it intentionally. This means an organisational investment must be made in terms of budget, software and training.
In the world of data democratisation, breaking down information silos is the first step toward user empowerment. This cannot be done without customisable 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 visualisations 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 analyse customer segments leading up to a new campaign. CMOs, on the other hand, will need data that allows them to analyse marketing ROI as they build next year’s budgets.
Those tools must help employees visualise their data. The ability to access data points in a visual way that consumers of the data can be comfortable with is important. These visualisations must align with the organisation’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. Since data democratisation 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 in order to participate.
Lastly, 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 centre of excellence is recommended to keep the use of data on the straight and narrow. This centre 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 realise 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 democratisation is now
For a sterling example of data democratisation in action, you need look no further than the Royal Bank of Scotland. The bank’s digital marketing leaders invited representatives from multiple parts of its business — including its call centre, human resources and legal department — to help optimise parts of the customer experience. Working off the same data, these non-marketers could bring fresh insights to the marketing process and revolutionise 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 democratisation, the journey is not measured in reaching a single destination. It has to be viewed as an ongoing process.
“Expect that data democratisation is an evolution where each individual small win, when non-technical users gain insight because of accessing the data, adds up to ultimately prove the merits of data democratisation,” says Bernard.
Data democratisation is the future of managing big data and realising 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.