The trend in modern business intelligence (BI) and data analytics has been to make insights increasingly more accessible — even to employees, customers and partners without a technical background in data. This push toward data democratization is meant to help decision makers of all stripes — from marketers to executives to HR specialists and everyone in between — capitalize on data insights without having to depend on formal reports handed down from the IT department.
So, what happens when businesses make data more accessible?
Read on to learn more about the advantages and challenges associated with democratizing data in today’s landscape.
Companies Reduce Time (and Effort) to Insight
Making data more accessible for users is a key step in driving adoption rates, which have remained frustratingly low for many organizations — just over 30 percent of employees in 2017, per research by Gartner. A key conclusion from this survey was that “ease of use impacts BI adoption.”
Making data more accessible goes hand in hand with deploying BI tools that make ad hoc analysis simple for a wide range of users. There’s no use in making data more accessible while requiring users to jump through a series of hoops to get it. More often than not, they simply won’t. As a result, adoption rates will likely still suffer despite the fact people could technically mine data for insights.
When employees can query data directly, it empowers them to ask questions and search for answers on their own. This has a few effects. First of all, it reduces the “time to insight” to seconds, which is a significant improvement over legacy systems from the past that required users to submit requests to data specialists, then wait days, weeks or months for the reports to hit their desks. When the tools are easy for all to use, the “effort to insight” is optimized, too.
Another positive outcome stemming from user-friendly, self-service data analytics is users can crunch numbers on their own — freeing up IT and data specialists from having to serve as middlemen between the rest of the company and data insights. Instead, these specialized teams can focus on shaping and driving the company’s big-picture data strategy.
Reducing the reporting backlog IT teams face also allows these specialists to devote more of their time and energy to governing data effectively.
But Governance, Security and Culture Are Key Challenges
What is data governance, exactly? According to CIO, governance includes “the processes and framework involved in managing data assets.”
Data governance addresses who is allowed access to data and how much users trust the data insights they receive. Even though self-service BI platforms aim to make data more widely accessible, administrators still need a way to control who is allowed to work with certain records. The ability to customize user permissions, even down to the row or object, can make or break the security of company data. This stringent level of cybersecurity is important in every industry, but especially those dealing regularly with sensitive files like healthcare and government.
Another question organizations must ask themselves is whether or not employees trust the data insights they’re receiving. Employees will only incorporate them into business decisions if they believe the results of their ad hoc queries are valid. For this reason, a modern analytics platform like ThoughtSpot allows users to trace insights back to their sources as part of its approach to data governance.
How employees regard data usage ties back to company culture. Organizations must shift their thinking in regards to data, communicate expectations with employees, provide training and guidance as needed and truly embrace data-driven decision making at every level to reap any benefits.
Business Benefits of Making Data More Accessible
Most importantly, there are many potential positive business outcomes from these more accessible data insights: increased customer satisfaction, reduced customer churn, more efficient supply chains, ability to deliver hyper personalized experiences, reduced operational inefficiencies and more.
Increased data accessibility is a great thing. It empowers employees to work with information directly while clearing up the backlog of reporting requests for IT specialists. Successful data democratization also depends on having strong governance in place to secure usage and provide transparency as to where the insights originated.