5 Pillars for Democratizing Data at Your Organization

Source : Original and full article published in Harvard Business Review

With a growing need to leverage data & analytics for competitive advantage, and Generative AI on the rise as an accelerator, companies must embrace a new management paradigm and democratize data across their organizations. To build a data democracy they must empower not just data experts, but everyone within their organization to work with data, irrespective of their comfort level or expertise with it. Yet, even digital natives such as Airbnb, Netflix, Uber and the like have struggled to achieve this in practice, since “it wouldn’t be possible to have a data scientist in every room.”

This research, conducted in the Competence Center Corporate Data Quality (CC CDQ) and published in Harvard Business Review, offers practical advice to tackle this challenge, backed by real case studies from digital native companies and from working directly with Fortune 500 data executives at more than 20 companies.

Embracing a new management paradigm shift: from data aristocracy to data democracy

Historically, data and its privileges (e.g., access, ownership, trainings, knowledge) have been in the hands of a few experts, creating tribal knowledge and perpetuating a data aristocracy. This has blocked data and its analytics from being integrated and leveraged throughout all corners of the organization to reach its full value potential. Building a data democracy requires coordinated orchestration as it involves motivating and empowering employees without “data” in their title, or “regular people,” to understand, find, access, use and share data in a secure and compliant way to contribute to business value creation from their own functional position or domain.

Five pillars towards building a data democracy

What can managers learn from the digital natives and incumbents who caught up on how to build their own data democracy at their organization?   

Managers often confuse the concept of data democratization with universal access to data, whereas it entails a cultural shift and empowering regular people (with rights and obligations) to work with data in their own domains. From our regular interactions with data management executives and analytics experts, we learnt that while many are aware of the challenges and have even begun the process, they are often still approaching the implementations in a piecemeal and ad-hoc manner.

Five enabling areas or pillars emerged from our results that will help managers to successfully integrate data into all corners of the organization:

1. Broaden data access by rolling-out data catalogs and marketplaces

2. Stimulate the generation of data-driven insights through self-service

3. Level up data literacy with specific curricula for personas or role families

4. Advance data practices through creating communities

5. Promote data through various corporate communication channels

While these 5 pillars can be built up without sequential necessity, they provide the roadmap to move forward, and addressing them all intentionally helps managers to orchestrate their journey towards a data democracy.

Feel free to reach out to the authors, of the Competence Center for Corporate Data Quality, Hippolyte Lefebvre, Prof. Dr. Christine Legner, and Dr. Elizabeth A. Teracino, to further discuss this research stream and its practical implications.

Picture © Andrey Popov | Dreamstime.com