Have you ever wondered how big “big data” is? Although practitioners and amateurs go into endless discussions on this regard, they all agree on one relevant aspect: businesses harness the power of big data when it supports decision-making processes. Indeed, humans have used data to answer questions for centuries; what has changed, though, it’s the pace they are being produced, collected, processed and used. These 21-century commodities aren’t like precious minerals: they aren’t more valuable because we accumulate them but because we implement proper flows to make them accessible, understandable and, ultimately, insightful. What a data-friendly business looks like? Read through and draw your own conclusions.
Understanding data democratisation
According to the World Economic Forum (WEF) the production of data will reach 40 zettabytes in the next two years, 10 times more than what was produced in 2013. While the emergence of the internet in the 90s triggered this data explosion, more recent technologies such as mobile and drones, internet of things networks, internet-powered applications (social media), artificial intelligence technology – for example, driverless cars – have multiplied the speed of data accumulation exponentially. This reality opens up a window of possibilities for businesses, and previously ubiquitous intuition-based decisions can now team up with data-driven ones and find the right balance that helps goals achievement. How to go further than simply stating so, though? To us, the starting point is to embrace the “data democratisation” approach.
Commonly, data democratisation proponents define it as “giving access to data to all employees in an easy, understandable way that leads to make decisions”. But we prefer to broaden its scope to cope with open source or application programming interfaces (APIs) strategies or with regulations such as the Payment Service Directive (PSD2) that asks banks for making customer data available in a secure manner and eventually to give third- parties access to their customer’s accounts, or even the GDPR. To us, the democratisation of data has to do with data flows, it’s about harnessing data entering your business, being collected in it, or leaving towards third parties or regulators.
The data-friendly business
As in societies, democratisation calls for building mechanisms for interaction, security and transparency, and standards to collect data and make the information interoperable and exchangeable. On this regard, WEF reports that only 10% of all data is collected in a format that allows for easy analysis and sharing. Just a few years ago, most aspects related to data management were an IT domain. We are moving from and statisticians and data scientist silo, to a more inclusive business user case where user categorisation, i.e. granting access to meaningful data to employees or teams according to their needs, is necessary. While most non-sensitive data must be accessible, keep in mind to put in place measures to avoid data misinterpretation, assess security risks and maintain data integrity.
Key to any data – friendly businesses are cloud computing, analytics and data visualisation software and machine learning. The cloud helps consolidate data from various sources in one place and makes them accessible; graphical user interfaces (GUI) use computer graphics capabilities to ease the analysis of data and interpretation; machine learning deals with larger, more complex and potentially disparate data sources to drive conclusions and deeper insights.
How many people in your business are benefiting from data?
Most businesses have been following a silo strategy when it comes to using data for decision-making. Changing that approach is part of the digital transformation journey every organisation is going through, currently. According to the latest PwC’s CEO Survey, 38% of CEOs are concerned about the speed of technological change. Data democratisation can boost the change of mindset businesses need, to transform digitally. The necessary board’s buy-in may be easier as well because changes are more tangible and the return on investment comes faster.
When democratising data, it’s imperative to think of governance user interaction and skills development. The first one aims at creating a framework for data acquisition, management and archiving, following security guidelines and assuring the business remains complaint. The second one, makes the adoption of process easier because the software that helps data make sense for non-technical people turns friendly, easy to understand and a valuable information source to make decisions. Skills development is about putting in place training and coaching programmes addressing users with different data needs. Think of data democratisation as an evolving process where the more employees gain insight, the more their decisions will positively impact business processes and results.
Teaming up with analytics
For data to make sense to your teams, understanding analytics is the cement and technology developments like GUI, give you a hand on this. You may be familiar with dashboards, likely the most ubiquitous GUI. When you decide your company to go-data-driven, dashboards and easy-to-interpret drag-and-drop analytics tools will be the preferred option for non- technical people. Data scientists and analysts will be using predictive algorithms, machine learning and data science instead.
Data democratisation is a journey and businesses will tailored their paths according to their digital maturity. Where is your next stop in the trip?
What we think?
Data-driven business isn’t a choice but a competitive need. Technology changes are certainly overwhelming and the faster you catch up with, the easier is to get your company in shape to make it resilient and adaptable. Transformation equals change and making data more accessible to everybody in your business will not only support more informed business decisions, it can also help you pave the way for upcoming digital changes we all must go through. Now it’s time to start off.