Have you ever had coworkers complain about spending too much time searching for information? That the knowledge they need is hidden in obscure data structures or data silos or even not accessible at all? Most users stepping into data analytics in a corporate environment for the first time make similar experiences. In our Quarterly Insights 01/22, we briefly touched on the data democratization topic. But what exactly is meant by this and why might it turn into a game changer?
Industrie 4.0 is finally taking off and jobs and roles change, while data becomes the new center of gravity. With people still forming the core of organizations (it is a common misconception that Industrie 4.0 promotes factories without people – we have not come across a Dark Factory yet) creating, preserving, and sharing knowledge is now more important than ever. According to an IDC study from 2019, 79.4 zettabytes of data are expected to be produced annually by 2025, driven also by the growing (Industrial) Internet of Things. An enormous amount of data eventually leads to deeper insights and better decisions especially in the manufacturing industry, which is still in the midst of process digitalization.
Data democratization addresses the accessibility and processing of data by all stakeholders who might have an intelligible interest. With stakeholders turning into Citizen Analysts, they can pull and create sophisticated analyses supported by user-friendly, interactive dashboards. Data analytics is backing decisions people make in their role, team or responsibility. Organizations are in the first stages of democratizing their data, however there are companies such as Toyota that can be cited as a flagship example. The company, known for the invention of the lean production principle, extended this concept towards data democratization. For this purpose, Toyota employees use Microsoft Power Apps as a no-code solution. A Centre of Excellence, which acts as a support structure, provides support and training to employees who encounter problems. This has enabled Toyota to reduce material costs and cut data entry time by hundreds of hours per year.
But what does it take to democratize data as a manufacturer? Data democratization is a socio-technical approach fostered by a continuous transformation process that starts with corporate culture. People must be intrinsically motivated to share and consume data. It is a management job to communicate added value and create a framework for targeted training. To be clear, decentralizing decision-making structures and strengthening team ownership requires strong leadership and takes time. On the technical side, the introduction of data engines, making it possible to collect, cleanse and analyze data, is a prerequisite. Eventually leading to better data management, information security, and risk governance. With the introduction of no-code or low-code platforms, ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) processes can be automized, which is one of the biggest hurdles for non-IT people. Allowing users to focus on data analysis or building software robots to automate workflows.
“We should teach the students, as well as executives, how to conduct experiments,
how to examine data, and how to use these tools to make better decisions.”
- Dan Ariely
Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University
and Founding Member of the Center for Advanced Hindsight
So, is data democratization a game changer? It is probably too early to tell. What is clear, however, is that we will have to make better decisions in less time in the future. Putting proper tools in the hands of as many people in the organization as possible seems to me to be a step in the right direction.