Data Democratization

Data democratization focuses on enabling more people within the organization to be involved in the data process. A data-democratized organization will have the production, use, and quality of data fall on multiple individuals and departments (not just IT), distributing ownership and responsibility to make data more agile and accessible throughout the entire organization.

For example:

A non-data democratized organization might have IT handle all data-related processes. If a business user needs a particular data set, they need to contact the relevant department and/or have IT prepare it for them, etc. In a data-democratized organization, that data would already be available to the business user (who might even be responsible for it). 

An organization that employs this data management approach will focus on the four pillars of data democratization:

  • Access to data for anyone who needs it to do their job better. 
  • Data literacy (the actual ability to work with data and interpret it)
  • Data culture (understanding the importance of data and organizational data strategy)
  • Shared responsibility (for the data and its quality)

In arcane organizations, everything data-related was siloed. IT, data, business, everyone was responsible for their own domain. But you lose so much in this process. Sometimes the data department can’t understand their data. Sometimes business doesn't even know what data the company has available. 

Data democratization is a better approach because all these people will work together. Business departments will have a way to access data, IT will share the burden of preparing data for analysis with the data team, and business users will begin to understand how to work with data and utilize it better. Overall, it will lead your company to be more data-driven and advance the actions you can take with your data assets. 

Distributing ownership of data and emphasizing its enablement requires multiple steps to be done correctly: 

  1. Establish a strong governance foundation. The principles, policies, and processes you set up for data governance can help drive data democratization. By making data systems more accessible and self-service (lots of automation), you can encourage more users to take advantage. 
  2. Democratize the right things. Some complex tasks in a data-democratized organization should still fall on particular departments or individuals – like data governance. Keeping governance principles like “defining rules and responsibilities” and “data standards and regulatory requirements” reserved for the data governance department or business users will ensure your foundation is strong enough to democratize other processes. 
  3. Having the right tools. Using data governance as an enabler, having the proper data management tools for your organization will help with data democratization. The first step will be introducing a self-service data catalog so anyone can access it. If done correctly, having the right tools will foster collaboration between data people.
  4. Invest in data literacy. Data literacy is the ability to work with, understand, and create data. It’s about giving people confidence and purpose and making them comfortable working with data. If you want to expand your number of users and distribute roles and responsibilities, all involved individuals must be data literate. 
  5. Establish a culture of collaboration. The democratized data is applicable only if it is of high quality, and getting there requires cooperation between the business, data stewards, and IT data owners. This allows these teams to review and refine the requirements and controls to have available, fit-for-purpose, and governed data.