Promoting Data Democracy Without Descending Into Data Anarchy

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Nowadays, businesses get their data from all sort of platforms.

In these technologically complex times, your business is literally drowning in information. With the advent of big data, enterprises are flooded with a deluge of everything – from the anecdotal and trifling to clear-cut scientific facts and figures.

Data democracy is a phenomenon growing within both small and big enterprises where data becomes more available for business users. For data democracy to work, your business will need tools to empower everyone in your organization to work with the data you receive rather than relying on data analysis apps or data scientists.

At present, there are a group of startups whose goal is to make the science of data more accessible to small businesses like yours. BigML, Oxdata and Precog are working to empower everyday business data users. Other business intelligence startup companies like ClearStory, Platfora and SiSense are making everyone rethink how business analytics is done in terms of big data and HTML5.

With their self-service tools providing valuable service, they make it easier for businesses to make use of the growing mountains of data and data marketplaces that are becoming increasingly available.

The benefits of data democracy

By making data more accessible within your organization, data democracy results in the following:

  1. It helps all the departments in your business make smarter decisions.
  2. It makes your enterprise agile enough to change directions or experiment based on the data gathered.
  3. Data sharing across all departments results in an organization-wide integration and coordination where all job functions contribute towards the success of your business.

When data anarchy eats up data democracy

On the other hand, data democracy has its share of detractors. Many believe that to prevent the descent into data anarchy, only data analysts should delve into the mysteries of this great flood of information and embark into painstaking analysis to arrive at a meaningful result.

Data anarchy occurs when business users within an organization start demanding access to data that has previously been kept off limits in other departments. In some cases, these users try to liberate this data using business intelligence tools, bringing in a whole gamut of other information from a lot of sources: your users and customers, from the wellspring of cloud computing, from different departments within your organization and from outside third parties like suppliers.

Data anarchy can:

  • create a security risk for the whole enterprise when sensitive data becomes exposed
  • undermine the data governance (rules and regulations) of your business with this lack  of data regulation and control
  • result in a nightmare for your company when multiple versions of data lead to imprecise results and misinterpretation
  • cause negative user experience as a result from huge array of information gathering methodologies

For data democracy to happen, rules and regulations must be followed

To be able to make your vision for data democracy viable within your organization, you will need to enforce some non-negotiable directives and strict policies in your data governance when it comes to:

  • accountability for data ownership, access and distribution
  • roles and responsibilities of employees who need to be trained to handle data
  • setting standards for data capture
  • imposing guidelines for information security and data privacy

Far from making it a data dictatorship, these rules make it necessary for your enterprise to retain and deliver true business analytics without descending into the chaos of data anarchy.

Photo courtesy of Andrea Balzano.

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