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What Is Data Democratization?

  • Amruta Bhaskar
  • Feb 8, 2021
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Every business is inundated with data from every angle. There is pressure to use insights we glean from the data to improve business performance. As a result of this incredible amount of data to process and new tech that helps non-technical people make sense of the data, there is desire and demand for data democratization.

Data democratization can be defined as making digital information accessible to the average non-technical user of information systems, without having to require the involvement of IT. It is the foundation for self-service analytics, an approach that allows these less than technical users (ie: line-of-business) to gather and analyze data without having to seek help from a data steward, system administrator, or someone in IT.

Data democratization means that everybody has access to data and there are no gatekeepers that 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 expedite decision-making and uncover opportunities for an organization. The goal is to have anybody use data at any time to make decisions with no barriers to access or understanding.

Until recently, data was “owned” by IT departments. Business units such as marketing, business analysts and executives used the data to make business decisions, but they always had to go through the IT department to get the data. This is the way it’s been for the better part of five decades and there are still some who believe it should remain that way.

There are several reasons why more organisations are open to democratising their data today, but certainly barriers have either been eliminated or significantly reduced. Here are just a few of them.

Data silos: Although there has been an improvement in recent years in breaking down data silos in an organisation, they still exist. Data used to be only accessible to executives who required it to manage the business and data specialists who were expected to gather and analyse the data and then report back to management. If you plan to take full advantage of data, it needs to be accessible to all. If it’s locked away and only one business unit has access to it, it will potentially block opportunity for your organisation.

Fear: There was and still is real fear about maintaining the integrity of the data when it’s accessible to more people. When you allow the bigger group access to the data there are security concerns. In addition, fear about how people would use and interpret the data was prevalent and blocked earlier adoption.

Analysis tools: Another barrier to data democratisation was the availability of appropriate tools to help analyse the data. These tools needed to allow those without a data analysis background to easily extract meaning from the data.

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