Data democratisation extends data access to everybody (or nearly everybody) within an organisation. The process of data democratisation also involves ensuring that non-technical employees feel comfortable working with and interpreting your company’s data.
Without your IT department acting as the gatekeepers to your company’s data, a broader range of stakeholders can draw insights from it and use it to inform their work.
Data democratisation means people encounter less friction when accessing data, leading to greater fluidity and encouraging quick and creative decision-making. For example:
- Sales teams have easy access to data about leads and prospective customers
Marketing can access data about conversions to improve their content
Helpdesk teams can access application usage data to better support colleagues with technical issues
In a “data-democratised” workplace, these teams no longer have to request permission to access restricted data silos—they’re empowered to take the initiative and use data in a way that best serves the company.
But while the benefits of data democratisation are clear, you must lay a foundation of good governance, clear policies and strong security before embarking on the data democratisation process.
Use the Right Tools For the Job
Data democratisation doesn’t mean simply giving everyone access to raw data—or even preparing visualisations of data that can be understood by non-technical staff.
To truly democratise your data, you must give people free access to “real-world” data —and ensure they can make sense of the data and use it to inform their work.
This means using the right tools to present your data in an accessible and understandable way.
You might require multiple tools to provide meaningful access to different data types and for different purposes. The data requirements of helpdesk teams vary considerably from those of marketing departments, for example.
You also need to ensure technically-minded staff can assist their non-technical colleagues—by answering their questions and supporting them to make sense of the data.
Data democratisation shouldn’t mean data anarchy: the process must be carefully managed.
For example, it should go without saying that wider access to a company’s data doesn’t mean every employee gets to read their colleagues’ HR files.
Compliance comes first, and your data democratisation project will be constrained by legal requirements arising from laws like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU, or the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the US.
That said, these regulations are not incompatible with a well-managed, rational data democratisation project. They might mean anonymising personal data where possible, and only extending access to non-personal data as far as is appropriate.
Your security controls must also be informed by clear data protection and security policies and a culture of data protection.
Ensure Good Data Governance
A solid data governance program is vital to underpin any data democratisation project.
Good data governance reduces the likelihood of data security incidents—for example, by setting rational retention periods to manage when old data is deleted, or by prohibiting the collection of unnecessary personal data.
Data governance also helps organisations to get the most of their data, by improving data quality and ensuring that there is a solid process for data sharing.
The general principle of data democratisation is that broader access to data is good for the organisation. But diligent data governance is required to make the process work.