Data democratization has become critical for organizations to leverage data’s true value and fully realize its benefits. Making data available across the organization helps companies to serve customers better and make data-driven decisions that align with their goals and objectives. It essentially means enabling access to a company’s data resources to employees, bound by reasonable limitations on legal confidentiality and security.
As a means to remove data silos in organizations, the indispensability of data democratization is clear. It allows more widespread access to and use of data within an organization. This can lead to more informed decision-making, increased collaboration and innovation and more efficient use of resources.
Breaking down data silos can help reduce the risk of data breaches and improve data security. While the jury may be out on whether data democratization is beneficial in preventing security breaches, silos between networks or security systems make it difficult to identify large-scale attacks as they tend to represent disjointed security protocols. There is less likelihood of robust security protocols between non-communicating teams.
New-Age Tech as an Enabler of Data Democracy
New-age technology such as cloud computing, blockchain, and advanced analytics are aiding data democratization. For example, 5G enables more significant volumes of data to be moved faster and more securely in the form of big data. Blockchain provides higher-quality data and improves the operation of cyber and physical systems. In addition, IoT allows for exchanging data between devices, where processes can be established between devices without intermediaries.
A hybrid cloud adoption survey conducted in March 2022 of IT professionals primarily based in North America and Europe revealed 93% of the IT industry would adopt a hybrid of cloud and on-premises solutions or migrate fully to the cloud within five years, using it to store and manage data. Gartner estimated that 85% of enterprises would embrace a cloud-first principle by 2025 and that it will be essential to execute digital strategies in business.
This suggests that new-age technologies play a significant role in breaking down data silos and enabling organization-wide access to data. By leveraging these technologies, organizations can easily store, process and share data, leading to better decision-making, increased collaboration and improved business outcomes.
Data creation, development, and utilization directly relate to Industry 4.0 applications. In practice, data democratization is seamlessly transferable to Industry 4.0 applications. The question arises: Do industrial companies have the capabilities today to apply the concept of data democratization? And to what extent?
As new-age tech drives the emergence of new business models, companies that will lead a cultural shift as well as a technology evolution will be successful. This is possible via a business-centric data strategy, along with the democratization of analytical tools and platforms to enable stakeholders to help build better insights into their business processes.
Culture as a Prerequisite for Data Democracy
A Google Cloud and Harvard Business Review survey of industry leaders revealed 97% believe organization-wide access to data and analytics is critical to the success of their business. However, only 60% of respondents believed that their organizations effectively distribute that access today.
What are the prerequisites for data democracy? First, companies should inculcate a culture change to create a pull from inside the organization rather than first developing the technology. Second, decision-making in companies is based on experience and intuition than on data; they should compulsorily begin to use data as a baseline for business decisions. Third, leaders should encourage a data-driven culture to grow from within.
Formalizing and sharing knowledge can remove roadblocks to the democratization of data. Therefore, one form of action is to set specific incentives to foster a mindset of knowledge sharing. For instance, existing practices to incentivize participation in the suggestion or lessons-learned programs can be used as a reference.
Many companies have procedures to involve employees in the continuous improvement process. But while employees can use the existing IT systems to perform their day-to-day work, they need more capabilities to cover their individual information needs. Thus, as a way forward, capability building within is critical. Another strategy is decentralizing decision-making; if employees can gain insights independently, they should be able to act on these insights independently.
Organizational culture is vital to data democratization, as it determines the attitudes, behaviors and values that guide how data is shared and used. On the other hand, a culture that values secrecy or hierarchical control over data can lead to resistance to data democratization efforts and perpetuate data silos. A culture that lacks trust and transparency can also lead to reluctance to share data, which can impede collaboration and hinder data-driven decision-making.
Data Democratization – The Way Ahead
Organizations need to assess and work on their tech stack and internal culture to promote a data-friendly culture supporting data democratization. To foster a data-friendly culture, organizations should encourage open communication and collaboration among employees and provide training and resources for employees to access, understand, and analyze data.
Open communication, collaboration, innovation and trust are essential attributes for breaking data silos. A corporate culture that values data-driven decision-making will lead to more widespread access to and use of data and support the implementation of new-age technologies. Finally, there is a need to establish clear data governance policies and procedures that support data democratization and build a continuous improvement process by encouraging experimentation and learning from failures.