Are You in a Data Democracy or a Data Dynasty?

Empower Your Citizens to use Data and You’ll Get More Value From It

These days, everyone knows that Facebook, Amazon, eBay, Pinterest, Apple and other largescale online organisations are not really in the business of social communication or e-tail. In fact, they’re in the business of data. These companies are growing their power base because of the vast amounts of private data they collect about their users and can monetise through advertising, promotion and targeting on their own platforms.

They’re data dynasties, with their own massive databases strictly reserved for their own use.

There’s been plenty of media and political discussion about the ethics of this. Governance for online data collection is evolving: high profile misuses, or at least grey areas in the ways dynasties use their data, have made the public and communities more wary of sharing it with them. But the juggernaut has been rolling for years and users continue to give these organisations relatively uncontrolled access to their personal data and usage information, in exchange for the helpful services they provide.


Data is Everyone’s Business to Some Extent

Most of our customers did not base their original business model on a vision of data ownership. They collect first party data in the course of their core business activities, but they don’t own, nor aspire to create, the highly evolved and comprehensive databases of the online giants. It’s not their core mission – though they recognise that they need customer, market and competitor data to support their current and future success.

They’re not data dynasties and they don’t want to be. But they do want insight that helps them make better strategic and operational decisions and to continually monitor and enhance performance.

To get the business intelligence they need, our customers want to supplement the first party data they hold with relevant additional datasets. These may be publicly and freely available national and government statistics, or they may be commercial datasets that they can select and purchase according to their requirements.


There’s a Cost and an ROI to Data Acquisition and Management

There’s a cost to acquiring, processing and analysing data. It’s not just buying data subscriptions or sets, it’s also in the database infrastructure and analytical tools they need to work with raw data and create meaning from it in context. It’s in the IT maintenance and development that supports data systems and the data scientists who have the knowledge and experience to generate actionable reporting from data. So it makes sense for businesses and public sector organisations to drive the most value from their whole data investment.

In many organisations, we find that data is held, acquired and processed for a single, specific purpose. Projects and business functions operate in silos, generating one-time data insights. Often, analysts create a bottleneck, working through business intelligence and data briefs one by one, because they’re the only people in the organisation who have the technical and specialist knowledge to work with data effectively.

It’s not a democracy. It’s more like a series of small data kingdoms within a federation. While the business strategy aligns all functions to strive for common goals, their data isn’t working in the same collaborative way.


Enable Data Visibility

Creating a true data democracy means opening data to all parts of the business, so that any project or team that could gain value from it can do so. That means there needs to be a common database or register of data that everyone can access, to see whether the insights they seek could be generated from existing resources. We regularly hear from customers who are excited about the potential of our Acorn database and are keen to make a business case to invest, not realising that another part of their organisation is already using it!


Make Data Easy to Use

The data must not only be visible, it must be accessible. Data scientists and analysts can’t keep up with the demand: a dashboard system that makes it easy for non-data specialists to understand, interrogate and report on data sweeps takes away one of the traditional barriers to data democracy. The analysis team can focus their efforts on strategic data projects and curating and focusing the data available throughout their organisation, rather than having to build every request and generate every report.


Use Third Party Support if you Don’t Have In-House Data Skills

For smaller organisations who may not have large teams, technology or data management resources, working with data specialists like us enables them to pose their critical business questions and let us advise them on the most relevant and focused data from the vast datasets at our disposal. We can provide the data in useable formats or even carry out the analysis on their behalf.

One of the historic objections to data democracy is the risk of compliance breaches. If users aren’t data specialists, the argument goes, they could easily misuse data or fail to understand permissions and contexts. In this data-driven age, we argue that compliance can and should be built into tools and systems, while all users should regularly be educated and informed about their data usage responsibilities, including any legal and ethical implications of their data use.

Establishing a data democracy empowers your teams to use all the data available and drive value from it in new and innovative ways. But with power comes responsibility. Clear policies and robust, compliant data processes and tools will help the new data democracies to use their resources wisely and well, without damage or suspicion affecting their reputations. Centralising and sharing data will deliver greater ROI for the business than project-by-project data requests.


If you’d like to talk to an expert at CACI about refining your datasets and digital tools to enable more accurate and efficient geo-location, please get in touch with our team.