How to Achieve Data Democratization in Your Business

Kelly Kirwan on January 13th 2023

On paper, it seems logical to have a team of data scientists and analysts act as your company’s “data gatekeepers,” managing how data is collected, analyzed, and disseminated across teams. But in practice, this setup can get complicated. These teams often become swamped with minor requests that don't require deep expertise, keeping them from pursuing more impactful work. And the backlog that builds up can slow down every department, leading to missed opportunities and lost revenue.

So, how do you empower every team within your organization to access cleaned, consolidated, and real-time customer data? The answer is: data democratization. 

What is data democratization?

Data democratization is when every person at your organization – no matter their technical skill set – can access collected data and leverage it for activation, campaign creation, or decision-making.

A main component of data democratization is ensuring that data is consolidated and accurate. This can be a challenge for businesses: breaking down the data silos that exist between departments. Oftentimes, their teams are working with tunnel vision, as they only have access to the data they collect via their own tools or owned touchpoints – creating blind spots in their understanding of the customer journey

Having an infrastructure that’s able to send all business data into a centralized hub is essential for democratization (and made simple with the use of customer data platform, or CDP). Then, it's time to educate employees on the best practices for analyzing and acting on said data.

How data democratization can transform your business 

Data democratization unleashes your company’s full potential by giving teams the tools and freedom they need to make independent, data-driven decisions at a faster rate.

Unlock the potential of your first-party data

Modern customers demand personalized experiences. To deliver on those expectations, companies need quick, unfettered access to the data they've collected from customer interactions – also known as first-party data.

If all data assets have to first pass through the hands of data gatekeepers, that team will quickly get overwhelmed. And that means leaving potentially game-changing initiatives on the cutting room floor because there are too many requests and not enough time.

Data democratization puts the power to build better customer experiences in the hands of every employee. 

DigitalOcean, a cloud-based provider, is a prime example of this. Their acquisition team was struggling to close the gap between idea and execution when it came to their campaign ideas. (Their analytics team would manually pull data to create the desired audience lists, and then send it over to marketing.) 

DigitalOcean began using Twilio Engage to unify its data and make it easily accessible outside their analytics team. This gave Marketing the autonomy to create custom audiences for campaigns in a matter of minutes. In fact, their team saw a 5x increase in speed when it came to campaign creation (and a 33% improvement with cost per conversion). 

Ensure every team can access the data they need

Entrusting employees with self-service analytics shows trust. And that trust and autonomy can  be a boon to employee retention – while also helping people do their job with more speed and efficiency. 

When more stakeholders can access data that’s generated both inside their department and across different roles at the company, it encourages deeper collaboration, leads to unexpected insights, and fosters better business decisions.

Morgan Brown, VP of Growth at Shopify, has seen this proven first-hand, saying, “The value of having real-time data available to every team is that anyone, anywhere can make better decisions faster – which is a superpower to any growth team.” 

Make your business more agile and boost analytics capabilities

Another competitive advantage of data democratization is increased agility. The lag time between identifying an opportunity and acting on it becomes more compressed. 

For marketing teams, achieving true digital agility ties back to data autonomy, allowing them to: 

  • Respond quicker to changing conditions and customer behaviors.

  • Use real-time user insights to serve up personalized customer experiences.

  • Make more data-driven decisions and drive business results. 

Digital agility won’t just affect the way you set up and launch marketing campaigns, it will also permeate the way your organization operates—pushing teams to experiment, learn, and collaborate more effectively. These practices will empower your business to keep up with and anticipate change while driving innovation both internally and for your customers. 

Obstacles to data democratization

Data democratization isn't without its challenges in implementation. Organizations that adopt this strategy must think carefully about how they will address some of the following obstacles to successfully make data accessible across teams.

Data silos

Different teams often have data stored in different formats, folders, and programs. Hard copy documents, data saved in archaic file formats, and information locked away in proprietary platforms can also cause headaches for would-be data democracy advocates.

Breaking down data silos involves building data pipelines, to transfer data to a centralized hub. (Learn more about ETL and reverse ETL pipelines and relational vs non-relational databases to understand how data is transported, formatted, and stored.) 

Inconsistent, incomplete data

Related to the above, if your company doesn't have established processes around collecting, cleaning, storing, maintaining, and updating data, you risk working off inaccurate insights. One IBM study found that the cost of poor data quality in the US alone is up to 3 trillion every year.

To fight against bad data, it’s important to set up a  data tracking plan to ensure everyone is aligned on 1. What is being tracked, 2. How these events are being referred to (e.g., “log_in” vs. “login”). You can learn more about data tracking plans, and how to create one, here. 

How to create and implement a data democratization strategy

Luckily, these obstacles can be overcome to successfully implement data democratization. Here’s how to do it. 

Democratization starts with standardized collection

A customer data platform like Segment is built to ingest data from several sources, classify and organize it, and then share it with other tools like your customer relationship management software. It can also automatically block events that don’t adhere to a pre-set tracking plan to ensure accuracy. 

Automatically audit data in real time to ensure data integrity

It's important to regularly check that your data collection isn't missing any vital information and that the entire process is secure. A data audit can confirm both of these things for you. The larger your database, and the more critical that data is to your company's success, the more important it is to be able to audit all that data in real time.

Segment audit checks who has access to the data, the source and destination of the data, where the data is stored, and how that data will be used.

Centralize your data into a single repository

Data can do powerful things when it's all gathered together in one place. 

That's exactly what Segment's customer data platform is designed to do - absorb inputs from disparate sources and assemble them into coherent narratives for data-backed decision-making.

Create unified customer profiles that unite different data sources

With a single, unified view of each customer, you can see their entire history with your brand across all channels. This data informs what channels you'll use to communicate with them, what messaging works best, when it's an ideal time to engage with them, and when they're ready to consider a cross-sell or upsell. 

Train teams to build and maintain data literacy

Once you've collected and cleaned your data in a central location, it's time to train staff on how to get the most out of this powerful new tool.

Employees will need to learn what kind of data is most meaningful for their roles and how to ensure it's collected from a reputable source. They'll also need lessons on recognizing data quality, so they don't accept an outlier as a trend and base their decisions on faulty assumptions.

Finally, data training should include detailed information on data management and how to secure all of that information.

Manage data access across teams

Data democratization still requires data governance, like managing who has access to sensitive data. Whether that's because of HIPPA, FINRA, or other regulatory rules, it's important to have tools that give different team members access to the right data without exposing the company to litigation.

Segment is the ultimate tool to achieve data democratization

Many tools in your data stack can achieve bits and pieces of a data democratization strategy, but Segment's customer data platform can handle the entire operation from collection to dissemination. That means fewer silos, a more standardized process across teams, and fewer costs for your organization.

Test drive Segment CDP today and learn how it can transform your organization into a team of data analysts today.

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