Why data democratisation is a gamechanger for business

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Why data democratisation is a gamechanger for business
As Vice President of International Sales, Paul Scholey is responsible for growing the Sisense business in EMEA and APAC. He brings over 25 years’ of experience in the software industry, having previously worked in and led teams in consulting, pre-sales, and sales. Paul has a track record of growing early stage and midsize software companies, with specialization in building sales teams focused on accountability and value-based selling. Most recently, he was SVP of International at BlueJeans by Verizon. Prior to that, Paul held a variety of leadership positions at Oracle, Teradata, Pentaho and Business Objects.

Every day, technology is advancing. It’s removing barriers to success, allowing the broader adoption of applications that were once too sophisticated for the everyday person. It’s placing the power of AI (artificial intelligence) into more hands, inching us increasingly closer to solving some of the world’s most pressing issues. At its core, technological advancements are fundamentally an act of democratisation, making specialised tasks and capabilities simpler, more affordable, and more accessible to all.

By and large, this is exactly what should be happening in the world of data and analytics. The promise of BI (business intelligence), after all, was to enable everyone to make smarter, data-driven decisions. However, this promise has yet to be fully realised.

Even though self-service analytics has placed reporting tools in the hands of business users, companies continue to rely heavily on specialists to interpret and contextualise charts and dashboards – and in many cases, to build them.

The true act of democratising data analytics – to seamlessly deliver insights from data into the hands of all – is well within reach. There have been incredible advancements in automation and AI (artificial intelligence) that have generated real-life examples of what people are capable of when they have the power of data in their own hands.

Driving better healthcare outcomes with data

Imagine a more intelligent healthcare industry where doctors become data scientists, patient treatment is personalised, caregivers truly care, and patients are more than satisfied with their care. With analytics, this new era of health care is well within reach, with some innovative industry players already taking the lead.

The medical-tech company Ava, for instance, uses AI and IoT (internet of things) to help women become pregnant without intrusive techniques or treatments. Through its work in personalising medical care for women, Ava has helped 30,000 babies come into the world. We are literally seeing new life right in front of us, due to creative uses of analytics.

Another company making improvements in health care is Res Consortium, a management consulting organisation that’s helping to bolster the performance of healthcare providers in the UK. The company is using infused (embedded) analytics in its software to inspire behavioural improvements and help the healthcare system be more efficient with budget and patient care.

GeriMedica, a multi-disciplinary electronic medical record (EMR) company in The Netherlands that services the elderly care market, rolled out analytics not only to aid the billing and finance departments, but to help its practitioners improve the quality of care.

The staggering volume of data that the healthcare industry creates presents a huge opportunity for analytics to find patterns and actionable insights, which can improve the lives of patients. As datasets grow and analytical questions become more challenging, healthcare teams will increasingly rely on the analytics embedded within their EMR systems and other software.

However, just serving up insights won’t be enough. As analytics become more mainstream, users will want the power to dig into data themselves, perform ad hoc analyses, and design their own dashboards. With the right tools and training, even frontline users like doctors and nurses can be empowered to become builders, creating their own dashboards to answer the questions that matter most to them.

Empowering insights for faster, smarter decision-making

If democratising data analytics provides so many benefits as demonstrated in the healthcare industry, then why aren’t other companies and industries following suit? The answer is simple. Doing so requires a fundamental evolution in how analytics is approached in the first place.

Most companies today ask their knowledge workers to make data-driven decisions by first learning additional tools. These tools come in the form of standalone dashboards and self-service analytics apps, which despite improving on the days of submitting data requests to IT, still require training, upskilling, and sometimes enrolling in certification courses. Not only is this often ineffective, but it also takes too much time; time that knowledge workers don’t have to begin with.

To truly democratise data analytics, knowledge workers must be empowered to make data-driven decisions without learning an entirely new discipline. The ideal scenario would be to have actionable insights extracted from data and then infused into workers’ existing workflows, apps, and devices, providing a natural flow to their decision making.

Imagine a CRM that crunches data to automatically suggest which accounts to contact, a customer service platform that proactively identifies accounts likely to churn, or a retail app that detects shifts in purchasing trends and recommends changes in inventory.

All of these examples empower knowledge workers to make smarter decisions faster. They no longer need to stop what they’re doing and dig through separate dashboards for insights. In short, insights from data are presented directly to them – not the other way around.

Driving innovation with analytics

It’s understandable that many people wonder if analytics will turn the population into optimisation robots who are controlled by the data. But the truth is precisely the opposite. Like other technologies, when analytics and insights from data are placed into the hands of all, everyone benefits. In fact, people have already begun using analytics in creative new ways like inventing entirely new products and services.

According to Deloitte, 44% of UK executives say AI is helping them to widen their lead or leapfrog ahead of their competitors by automating tasks and driving better business decisions into the future. Even more, recent reports indicate that 70% of businesses will be using AI, and the majority (95%) of customer interactions will use some form of AI-related functionality by 2030.

Look at the UK’s pioneering recipe-box company Gousto, for example. This company is providing households with convenient and easy-to-cook recipes to the tune of eight-million meals monthly, while reducing food waste. Independent builders merchant Huws Gray is a one-stop-shop for its customers, providing everything from below-ground drainage products to roofing materials. And Disciple, an industry leader in SaaS solutions for the creator economy, is helping its digital creators build unique and targeted app-based communities around their content outside of mainstream social media channels. Each of these companies provides a product and/or service made possible by powerful analytics made invisible to the everyday person.

This is what’s possible when data analytics is democratised. These achievements didn’t come to light because of specialist reporting teams in IT or self-service BI tools delivered to business users. No, they came to fruition because everyday people have insights at their fingertips, enabling them to make smarter decisions.

The future of analytics is now. It’s up to the most innovative companies to keep pushing forward and putting insights into the hands of everyone in a way that makes sense to them. In doing so, everyone will benefit in ways unimaginable.

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