The Importance Of Data Democratization

Having data in only the hands of data scientists reduces it effectiveness


There are some fundamental differences between Millennials and The Silent Generation born between 1923 and 1944). This is not only in the way they dress, the music they listen to or their approaches to politics, but in the amount of information consumed and how they consume it. If somebody today wants to know the origin of a word, they just check the internet from their phone. For a Silent Generation member, this same information would takes weeks to find and meant asking people or checking through books and libraries. Because of the small rectangles in our pockets and the screens we stare at for most of the day, every single person with an internet connection today knows more than the smartest and most educated person in the world only 30 years ago.

The reason this has happened is because people's skill sets have developed to allow them to use the kinds of technology that gives them access to this information. Computers have existed from the Second World War onwards, but it was only when they became democratized and useable by the wider population in the mid 90's that the benefits were truly felt. The same thing is happening at the moment in companies across the world, except with data.

One thing that has marked the data revolution has been the emergence of data scientists and data specialists within companies, but the companies who are using data most effectively are the ones who have made it accessible to as many of their employees as possible. Amazon are one of the most famous examples of this, showing customer service operatives important information on the person they are talking to, communicating important data points to the customer during the order process and giving metrics to their development team to optimize their sites.

However, data democratization is not simply about having data and showing it to people. The ability to understand the data is as important as having access to it. Through the use of dashboards, visualizations and interactive interfaces, people with little-to-no training on data can now gain powerful insights into almost any area of the company. It allows people in the warehouse to see where particular objects are at any one time or an accountant to see adjustable forecasts.

There are some considerable successes from taking this kind of approach,  T-Mobile being a prime example. The company adopted a big data strategy that saw them look at customer satisfaction, product use, customer experience, business operations, supply chain and network, then made the data available to those who needed it. Through this informed workforce and the improvement in how customers were provided for, they retained 50% more customers in the second quarter of 2011 after the implementation. Since then, this approach has helped them maintain steady growth, the second quarter of 2015 being the 9th consecutive quarter where more than 1 million new customers have been recruited.

With  increased access to data, employees throughout the company will have the best opportunity to excel, and when a company creates an environment where individuals benefit, the company as a whole will do as well.

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