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What Is Data Democratization? Explanation, Benefits, and Best Practices

Rachel Nizinski, Appian
April 1, 2024

It’s increasingly difficult for people inside enterprise organizations to harness the power of their data. Even though good business decisions are nearly impossible without good data, getting data into the right hands at the right time is no easy task. Data democratization is an initiative to solve this problem. Let’s dive into what data democratization is and how it can help you and your organization become more data-driven.

Data democratization definition.

Data democratization is an enterprise initiative to improve data-driven decision-making throughout an organization. Data democratization breaks down silos and promptly delivers data to the people who need it to make informed decisions. 

Data democratization has two core tenets: data access and data literacy. Both are simple in theory, difficult in practice.

Data access.

Data access focuses on getting data to people and giving them the tools to explore and search for what they need. Once data is delivered to users, they need analytics tools to explore it on their own outside of the standard data processes. These self-service tools enable even non-technical users to rapidly discover insights independently, empowering them to use data more strategically in their everyday work.

Data literacy.

Data literacy is the ability to understand, analyze, interpret, and communicate with data. It involves the skills and knowledge required to effectively work with data, including reading and interpreting data visualizations. There are varying levels of data literacy across every organization. 

Data literacy should be table stakes for all employees, but it’s an often overlooked part of data democratization. Employees should continue to develop and refine their data literacy skills, including learning how to use new software and technology and improving analytical thinking. 

Want to learn more about how to solve your data silo problems and speed up innovation? Get the eBook: The Data Fabric Advantage.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ) about data democratization.

Find answers to common questions about data democratization below.

What are the benefits of data democratization?

With such a wide-scale initiative, the value proposition needs to be clear to ensure the juice is worth the squeeze. Here are the top benefits you can expect from a data democratization initiative:

1. More data-driven decisions.

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of data democratization is better decisions. There is no substitute for clean data in the right format for business leaders. Too often, key business functions are left without a 360-degree view of their business data. From lagging field operations charts to incomplete sales data, when business leaders lack information to make decisions, it can cost them a competitive edge in the market. But with data democratization, business users can make informed choices quickly, setting you apart from competitors and helping sustain growth.

2. Improved customer experience.

Today, customer information is more plentiful than ever before. From usage of digital platforms, feedback, and histories of interactions with your organizations, this data is scattered across cloud-based and legacy systems. Part of data democratization is data unification, and with a 360-degree view of the customer, you’re sure to alleviate friction and pain points.

3. New insight discovery.

Opening up data access creates a collaborative environment where all team members feel empowered to answer their own data-related questions. Business users in larger organizations are very close to the data they collect. Giving them the analytics tools they need to surface their own insights can help unlock hidden business growth opportunities.

4. Scalability.

Data democratization is a unified effort to drive data-informed decisions and, in many cases, digital transformation. This effort is a centralizing force for data management and creates an architecture that allows you to scale data access and analysis capabilities up and down as demand and priorities change.

How do you manage security and governance?

If you want data democratization, you must have good governance practices. Without a centralized data management system, you’ll find yourself duplicating efforts across dozens of tools to ensure you are complying with rules and regulations. 

A broader data governance initiative needs to be in place before you can provide data access to multiple teams. Data fabric technology is a data virtualization approach that serves as a centralized hub for managing when, where, and how teams are able to access data.

How long does it take to roll out a data democratization strategy?

One of the key things to remember about data democratization is that it is an ongoing process that should not have a specific end date. You’ll have to work to continually eliminate data silos, connect data, and equip business users with the information they need as you work to create a more data-driven culture. To make this easier, don’t start with a large-scale, enterprise-wide implementation; instead, break it down into smaller phases, such as department-wide rollouts.

What Is Data Democratization? Explanation, Benefits, and Best Practices

Getting a complete data democratization initiative off the ground can be a game changer for your organization, taking you from making arbitrary choices to data-driven decisions that give your organization a competitive advantage in the market. 

But remember: simple doesn’t mean easy. A number of hurdles stand in the way of data-driven decision-making. Yes, having a myriad of siloed data sources is a common challenge, but many organizations also struggle to get data to the right people at the right time and improve data literacy. 

One of the best ways to overcome these challenges and launch or improve a data democratization strategy is via a people, process, and technology framework

Train employees on data literacy.

Individuals and organizations with strong data literacy skills are better equipped to make informed decisions, identify opportunities and trends, and solve complex problems. But it’s an ongoing process. As new technologies emerge and metrics change over time, you’ll need to train and retrain your staff. A growth mindset is key here.

Enable business users with data.

Giving business users access to self-service analytics tools for data exploration keeps your organization agile and adaptable. While there should of course be standardized reports and dashboards generated on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly basis, you should also have a process and/or tools in place for ad hoc data analysis.

Adapt data virtualization technology.

There are many different data management and integration tools on the market that use technologies like data warehouses, data meshes, and data lakes. Data fabrics are emerging as one of the most intriguing of these technologies, not least because they provide a unified data model, centralized management, and data optimization capabilities. 

This makes data fabric an ideal technology to drive data democratization efforts. Getting the entire organization operating based on the same set of data gives you a single source of truth for all data analysis, access, and more.

Discover how you can eliminate data silos with an integrated data fabric. Read the Data Fabric Guide.

Data democratization can transform the way you work.

In 2021, 81% of businesses still did not have a solid strategy in place to use their data to its full potential. Don’t leave the data goldmine unexplored. IT leaders need to be at the forefront of enabling data-driven change, or else they risk holding growth back. Strive to create environments where data is unified but governed across the enterprise, where business users can self-service and unleash digital innovation.

How does data fabric fit into a modern automation strategy? Get the Gartner® Emerging Tech Impact Radar: Hyperautomation.