What is data democratization?

Updated: 4 days ago

Data democratization is understood as the process of making data as accessible as possible, and improving understanding of data across an organization ― simply put...the democratization of data (what it is, how it’s used, and so forth). The idea of data democratization stems from the belief that everyone deserves to have equal access and understanding of data. But is it that simple?

It’s been noted that data democratization is more than a one product, one service, one time fix to the current status quo. Instead, it is an ongoing process of data education and application for all members of an organization. The process is understood under three principles, called the trifecta of data democratization by Arpit Choudhury:

  1. Empower employees to feel comfortable asking data-related questions

  2. Provide the right tools to enable everybody to work with data

  3. See democratization of data as an ongoing process which might even require an organization-wide cultural shift

Why data democratization?

This process of democratization supports data literacy, or the “ability to read, write, and communicate data in context."

In an increasingly data-centered world, many teams struggle to fully understand what the data they are presented with truly means. More and more organizations rely on data insights to increase their efficacy, but a misleading chart can persuade someone to shift their beliefs, or provide someone with data that falsely supports their claims.

Data democratization emphasizes the importance of ensuring that people are equipped with well-supported, easily-understandable data that can actually help their cause. Furthermore, data democratization supports the idea of equity among team members. Though each member may bring their own strengths, ensuring that everyone can fully understand that data that other people present ensures a competitive team with better business insights.

Accessibility to data also increases equity in organizations by ensuring that all team members of different backgrounds can contribute meaningfully through their literate understanding of data. Everyone in an organization should feel comfortable understanding, interpreting, and using data in their own work, even in non-technical roles.

How does it look in practice?

In practice, there are many different ways to ensure that every team member feels valued and can contribute when the project concerns data.

First, ensure that everyone is familiar with the basic tools that are used for projects including excel or other software. Though some organizations may assume all members have a basic level of skill in these programs, it is important that everyone is minimally refreshed on how to use this software.

Second, hold a “data academy” for staff to learn specific data-related skills for their positions. This ensures that every team member is adequately prepared for their data responsibilities.

Finally, utilize data in new and creative ways to allow team members to conceptualize what happens when the work is brought into fruition.[2] Without the projects that result from the use of data, it is hard to understand just how significant an impact data-driven insights can have on an organization.

What issues can arise with data democratization?

It is important to ensure that all members have access to the data that supports the company. That’s the key part of data democratization. But more than that, data democratization is about the literacy behind that access.

Most organizations are busy, and the desire to learn something new or change an existing system is typically superseded by the more urgent day-to-day operations. The impulse to adapt new technologies, assign attendance to one-off workshops, or more dramatically, hire experts is founded in that time crunch. For a skill like data literacy, that impulse to simply write it off as “too much work” or “not urgent enough” is a common one.

However, data democratization doesn’t ask everyone to become a data scientist, but rather to be more cognizant of the ways data can play a role in an organization. It’s a call for everyone to get to level 1 rather than for the existing experts to make it to 100.

And without data literacy but a push towards more and more technical systems, there can be consequences that outweigh the benefits, from misinformation when the data is misinterpreted or information overload from unorganized data streams. Data democratization and data literacy must work hand and hand to ensure that data-driven work is efficient and effective. Even small steps towards organizing tools and having team-level check-ins can start the (ongoing) process of data democratization.

Though data on the surface appears to only have relevance to technical team members, those who work in other areas of the organization can benefit from a basic understanding of data. Data democratization is an ongoing process of education and application.

Who has done it already?

Many companies including Spotify and Starbucks have begun the process of democratizing data at their company. For Activism Always, data democratization is guiding value to our work, focused on the goal of empowering via data services to our social impact sector clients, creating materials that allow for non-data experts to participate in data-driven work.

Data democratization occurs when data is made easy to find, understandable, and adjusted for quantity of data. Our team is committed to ensuring that clients are able to understand the data insights of our product, and that even non-technical members on our team are connected to the data work. Democratizing data within an organization promotes equity, increases efficacy, and brings an organization further into the 21st century of data-driven analytics and insights. It is an important piece of the puzzle to consider when utilizing data in an organization.

What can I do to democratize my data at my organization?

Activism Always hosted a FREE, beginner-level workshop about social media data, equity, and how to get your team towards social media literacy. Watch the recording to learn how to change how your organization utilizes and understands data.

Follow our 'Putting Data Democratization into Practice' guide to learn how to implement these ideas into your team and organization.

Activism Always’ hybrid service combines an internal AI platform with strategy analytics, maximizing organizations' data capabilities and impact with an accessible price and format. If you have any questions or interested in a FREE informational consultation, contact us at team@activismalways.com.

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