The New Data Republic: Not Quite a Democracy

Data is vastly more available, but the skills needed to analyze it are still far from universal.

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Competing With Data & Analytics

How does data inform business processes, offerings, and engagement with customers? This research looks at trends in the use of analytics, the evolution of analytics strategy, optimal team composition, and new opportunities for data-driven innovation.
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Some years ago, Google’s chief economist Hal Varian blogged about the “democratization of data,” which he believed would make “information that once was available to only a select few…available to everyone.” This trend is one that “finally puts crucial business information in the hands of those who need it,” as Salesforce’s Robert Duffner put it recently.

But this particular democracy offers no guarantee that you’ll get to participate — suffrage is far from universal.

More People Have More Data

There are clear signs that data is becoming more widely available, and that the movement to democratize data is making real progress. Prior barriers such as infrastructure, culture, tools, and governance that once kept data out of the unwashed hands of the employee masses are quickly eroding. For example:

  • Rather than building specific analytical applications, IT departments increasingly focus on building infrastructure to empower users through self-service approaches.
  • Companies are progressively embracing the value of sharing information. Organizations like General Electric report that information silos are no longer holding them back.
  • Analytical tools to manipulate the data are widely available; familiar desktop productivity and server database software can now incorporate analytical tools.
  • Savvy organizations manage processes to avoid anarchy from “projects that tap into data sets of questionable quality and put compatibility, compliance, and security at risk.” The Coca-Cola Company, for examples, works to improve availability and decrease duplication by establishing large, shared data platforms.

As a result of these trends, many employees have access to more data. Recent research from MIT Sloan Management Review finds support for this: 77% of respondents report an increase in access to useful data since last year. Additionally, the number of organizations reporting increases is increasing — from 70% in 2012, to 75% in 2013, to 77% in 2014. There is a double increase here: More organizations are reporting access to more data. Access to data is no longer the bottleneck it once was.

Democracy? Not Quite

And yet, the result is not quite the new data democracy lauded in the blogosphere. A democracy would mean that everyone gets to participate in the move toward broader access to new troves of data. That’s not the case. Far from it.

Instead, this

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Topics

Competing With Data & Analytics

How does data inform business processes, offerings, and engagement with customers? This research looks at trends in the use of analytics, the evolution of analytics strategy, optimal team composition, and new opportunities for data-driven innovation.
See All Articles in This Section

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