The benefits of following a strategy of data democratisation

02 May 2023 4 min. read
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Within many organisations, access to business data has traditionally been limited to small groups of analysts, technical experts or senior managers. Now, as the value of data to the organisation is becoming better understood, this situation is changing, writes Mark Fazackerley from Talend.

Growing numbers of businesses are embracing a strategy of ‘data democratisation’ which is the process of making data available and accessible to every stakeholder. Under this strategy, everyone is given the ability to access and use data to inform their decisions and actions.

When every stakeholder can access the data they require, it improves decision-making, increases efficiency, and boosts operational excellence.

The benefits of following a strategy of data democratisation

To achieve effective data democratisation, organisations may put in place some methodologies such as establishing clear policies and procedures for data access and use. They could also provide training and support to help people understand how to interpret and use data effectively.

An alternative approach, however, is one that aims to liberate data. It is then treated as a product which is one of the pillars of the data mesh model. For data-driven initiatives to succeed, organisations should consider treating data as a product with the same level of importance and care as any other product or service. It is then managed and governed in a way that ensures trustworthiness while also meeting the business needs of the organisation.

Inverting the pyramid

When taking a data-as-a-product approach, the traditional data decision-making pyramid is inverted, as everything will start with operational use cases. Business users own the process and determine the most relevant use cases they want to improve, which are often linked to business priorities and outcomes.

For example, consider a bank that wants to improve its product upsell strategy. Business users within the bank will determine the data they need and, with the support of IT, create a specific dataset that assists them in offering customers new products and services that they may be seeking. This approach can also support broader objectives like risk management or operational excellence.

To succeed, this approach will require a strong sense of data ownership to ensure proper data governance. This is because governance is no longer a centralised function but rather cross-organisational. In this way, every stakeholder is responsible to ensure an adequate usage of data.

Treating data as a product also means that business users will need to know more about the data they are using. This includes where it is stored, where it has come from, when data should be retired or deleted and whether it can be trusted. Users will need to know every component of the data in order to maximise its business use to support their organisation’s objectives and strategy.

The power of democratisation

Achieving true democratisation of business data requires more than simply delivering it from a centralised data lake or data warehouse. The data must also be readily accessible by those who require it, and protected from those who do not.

Whether it is accessed in a self-service environment by a business user or integrated into an application, making trusted data available to all when it’s needed is of utmost importance. Traditionally, organisations have tended to require users to come to central IT with requests and wait until they are fulfilled and authorised. This tends to create a gap between the business and IT when it comes to data ownership, and it is this gap that needs to be addressed.

To succeed with a strategy of democratisation and the adoption of a data-as-a-product approach, organisations must facilitate broader access to data. The capability to deliver trusted data to business experts at the point of need is critical if the aim is to liberate data value across an organisation.

Self-service applications such as data preparation tools allow business users to access a data set and then cleanse, standardise, transform, or enrich the data. They can then readily share their visualisations, preparations and datasets or embed data preparations into batch, bulk, and live data integration scenarios.

In order to fully democratise data, organisations should begin by democratising data quality and giving business users, who are typically the SME for the data they wish to use, access to data quality functions.

Research demonstrates that data democratisation can deliver significant benefits for any organisation prepared to take the steps to make it a reality, with Users will be able to make more informed decisions and improve the quality of service provided to clients and other stakeholders. Consider how following this strategy could assist your organisation to unlock the value of your data assets.

Mark Fazackerley is Regional Vice President for Australia and New Zealand at Talend.