Data Democratization: Why Your Association Needs It

May 13, 2021
Thomas Altman
Data Democratization: Why Your Association Needs It

Most of your staff isn’t trained to handle the mountains of data you’re collecting. So we usually rely on data analysts and IT teams to make sense of it all and then distribute it as needed.

But we all know this doesn’t always happen when you need it most. Your people are busy after all. Today though, non-techie people finally have the power to access and apply real-time data through a process called “data democratization.”

With the right checks and balances in place, this game-changer can promote better teamwork, foster collaborative problem-solving, and give your association the competitive edge you need to make decisions on a dime and provide unparalleled member experiences.

What is data democratization?

Data democratization is the process of making digital information accessible universally in your association—for the tech-savvy, non-tech-minded end users, and everyone in between.

With no barriers to gathering and sharing data, anyone within an organization is empowered to use real-time data in their decision making. If you have a good handle on your information, then democratizing data enables:

  • Faster, smarter, and more impactful decisions
  • The seamless exchange of information
  • More agile, data-driven, and cooperative teams
  • User empowerment across all tiers of an organization
  • Better member targeting and engagement
  • Innovative ideas and new opportunities for growth

Why is digital democratization important for associations?

Breaking down silos

Associations typically have member data, internal departmental data, transactional data, and analytics data kept in information silos that don’t “talk” to each other. Data democratization breaks down these walls and inconsistencies in data sets to create a borderless ecosystem of information.

Facilitates learning

For data democratization to work, every team member needs a certain amount of training on the tools and processes involved. Training and hands-on learning allows every player on your team to grow and stay proactively informed in the state of business, your goals, and how to achieve them.

More cooperative

Data democratization often drives a serious cultural change in organizations as it forces you to re-examine how you manage data to reduce the obvious risks involved in giving everyone access to information. In turn, a shared sense of trust and cooperation grows. And when teams see the value of sharing data, cooperation and collaboration grows even more until it’s just a natural part of your culture.

Better ideas

Democratizing data ensures the right person has the right information at the right time so they can make informed decisions when they need to. Giving more people access to the insights they need leads to less guesswork and more impactful and diverse ideas.

Sounds good, right? Now here’s how you can actually put it into practice...

How to Get Started

Increasing access to data opens the door for obvious risks to data integrity if the right safeguards are not in place. So to increase data accessibility, we put data governance safeguards in place. These checks and balances set the bar high for the standard of practice among team members by increasing accountability and transparency.

Reducing these risks requires you to champion better “data governance” and “data management” practices.

Data Governance - Knowing Who Controls Data

Data governance is basically when you create procedures for data security, quality, and usage. A clear framework for data governance and the checks and balances it creates association-wide:

  • Keeps the use of data on the straight and narrow in terms of compliance and integrity.
  • Promotes transparency, accountability, and necessary training.
  • Reduces the amount of data you have to monitor for accuracy and completeness.

Data Management - Knowing how data is managed

Data management essentially puts your data governance processes into action when it comes to using data for decision-making. Having a “standard of excellence” around how information is managed lays to bed any concerns about potential data mismanagement or misinterpretation.

It also ensures information is consumed and visualized in alignment with your organization’s goals and performance targets so all decisions support business needs.

You can even create data management standards to filter information based on people’s roles or show data points in a visual way. This way, not only is your staff comfortable with the process of democratizing data but you also stay ahead of any potential mishaps or liabilities.

RELATED ARTICLE>> Taking Control of Your Association's Third-Party Data

Connecting people to information

Connecting everyone in your organization to the information they need may require some initial training or technology changes, but the payoff in terms of performance, growth, and freeing up information silos is well worth the investment.

Integration Platforms

Integration platforms such as middleware and newer microservices bridge the gaps in your systems and data.

Instead of having data silos and one-to-one integrations between all the systems and applications you use, integration platforms are the “software glue” that work with all your third-party vendors. So when you need to access information, you don’t have to manipulate the data. It’s already ready and manageable from a single place.

Data Warehouses & Data Lakes

Customizable data warehouses, more modern data lakes, and even cloud storage are another strategy to make it easy for anyone in your organization to get the data they need to make a decision.

These solutions store and organize information - according to your data governance processes - in one centralized database for easy reporting and analytics.

But you should know that these analytics warehouses aren’t always the best solution because they integrate data, not your actual systems (aka they’re data-level integrations not system-level integrations). So you could potentially be left with member experience issues. For example, your member profile page may not have info about past event registrations or book purchases.

In short - some organizations may find that integration platforms or moving to more natively integrated systems may be a better solution to make data democratization a reality.

Becoming a Data-Generous Organization

With the limitless potential of organization-wide data sharing and accessibility, it’s not a question of IF your association needs data democratization; rather it’s time to figure out HOW to create it.

Getting a leg up on slower adopters and data-stingy organizations, and making data-driven decisions a central part of your culture will unlock the true value of your association.

Before you can implement data democratization though, you first need a handle on what your information is right now. If you want to make sure you have the right data and are using it effectively, check out our webinar Is My Data Good Enough?.

Thomas Altman

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