Democratizing data is all about empowering people across the enterprise to drive better business results. Combining functional expertise with access to high quality and timely data provides the foundation for transformational data interactions. Who better to understand how to interrogate data and find meaning in the results than the people who live and breathe the use cases every day? It is far more effective for someone with intimate understanding of their business line to analyze data for trends, uncover anomalies, and make sense of what stories data reveals. When data generalists with no practical experience as an end user are left to guess what information is most relevant, there is significant opportunity for insight left on the table.
Advances in cloud technologies, integration services, and data analysis tools have laid the foundation, thus minimizing barriers to data access and improving business user experiences. Solutions providers are well aware of the largely untapped benefits that a true democratized data organization present. These companies are investing heavily in technologies and people to seize the opportunities ahead. The ability to ingest, model, govern, and consume data intelligently from a variety of sources in a single place at scale has never been more achievable for a wider audience of data consumers. While the effort to design and implement such strategies is not easy, those who are invested now will reap the rewards and gain material benefits well ahead of the pack of competitors playing catchup behind them.
The vision for all of this has been out there for a few years and the brave early adopters have pushed the needle such that a wider audience is lining up to stand on their shoulders. For decades, adoption of new technologies and redesign of familiar operating models has been a tough hill to climb in the asset management industry. It’s time for the next wave of buy-side firms to start planning that climb else they will be left behind in short order given the rapidly accelerating pace of change. In preparation for the journey ahead, strategic planners and decision makers should be keenly aware of the following:
- Data quality and coverage—Everyone knows that output is only as good as the input, yet it remains far too common to skip straight to data consumption activities before getting the data itself right. Any good data democratization strategy must start with trustworthy sources wrapped with a sound data governance framework.
- Normalization—Standing up a usable data platform would be easy if all the sources neatly aligned, but that’s not the case with enterprise scale frameworks. Data is nuanced. Different sources often use different values for shared elements and have different structures for similar entities. Data needs to be normalized for end users to join like-for-like elements for accurate aggregated usage.
- Upskilling users—Accessibility to data alone does not make for a democratized data organization. People need to know the tools and core aspects of the data catalog to use it intelligently. Education is key to bringing the people within your organization from where they are at this moment to where they will excel in the new world of data driven decision making.
Data democratization strategies are empowering investment professionals across organizational functions to tap into the rich treasure trove of data and glean new insights that drive effective decision making and efficiencies. Whether you are at the very beginning of this journey or well on your way to making your vision a reality, the benefit potential on the horizon makes for exciting times.