Sunday, 12th July 2020

Data democratisation: a centre of excellence, the cloud, and culture

It’s becoming more and more challenging to visualise the amount of data that we’re amassing in the present day. Visual Capitalist has suggested that we’ll reach 44 zettabytes in 2020 – that would mean that there are 40 times more bytes than there are stars in the observable universe.[CGG1] By Helena Schwenk, Market Intelligence Lead, Exasol.

Given that so much of this data is irreversibly intertwined with business, organisations need to be able to wield it effectively. This has led to a growing number of Chief Data Officers (CDOs) that are taking charge and helping to develop their organisation’s understanding and usage of data.

Despite this, many organisations are not yet scratching the surface of what they could – and should – be able to achieve with their data. According to recent research from Exasol, only 32% of data decision makers said that their data teams are able to extract the insights they need.

Agreeing an effective data strategy and establishing a robust data culture is imperative for future business success. Without one, data teams are going to be battling a lack of efficiency when it comes to handling and acting upon their data. This is an insurmountable obstacle in the pursuit of genuine data excellence. Fortunately, our research found that 83% of respondents believe that work is being done to establish their data-driven culture.

Consider a Data Centre of Excellence

One of the challenges to a data-driven culture can come about when a majority is dissatisfied with who is initiating data-driven strategies. 74% consider data strategies to be driven at the board level, but more than half (55%) believe that data strategies should be driven by a Data Centre of Excellence (CoE), or an Innovation Lab[HS2].

A CoE is a team of cross-functional data specialists – scientists, engineers, architects, delivery managers, workflow integrators and analysts. For smaller organisations this won’t be quite as industrial a unit, with capable members across different teams sharing out responsibilities and contributing in balance with their day-to-day roles.

Constructing this dedicated CoE to help control how data is interpreted, directed and used makes the most of the skills within a team and acts as a single source of truth for the entire business.

Address the human side of data analytics

A business-wide mentality is imperative when it comes to data – everyone has to be on board to maximise the benefit. Organisations can make their data strategy even more effective with the democratisation of data. If every employee across an organisation is able to gather and/or analyse data with intuitive tools, then faster and better business decisions can be made by the people driving the organisation day-to-day.

A significant amount (80%) of data decision makers support this, believing that opening up access to data has a positive impact. And the CDO is perfectly placed to make this happen, recruiting ‘data citizens’ in different departments.

This puts the human at the heart of a data strategy that increases productivity and can open the door to exciting new career opportunities and progression. The objective is to open up data to be a tool used by the many, not the few.

Get your deployment model right

Data democratisation isn’t easy though, and four out of five of data decision makers said their current IT infrastructure makes it challenging. Deployment model decisions are key once a data strategy is in place. There are many different factors to consider including speed, cost, types of workload and future requirements when evaluating if on-premises or cloud is the best option.

Flexibilty is crucial and a hybrid cloud approach can often be the best model, as many organisations still require the need to manage sensitive workloads on-premises. But where cloud can really deliver is in terms of real-time delivery of a large volume of data to a large numbers of people. Supporting this, the majority of those surveyed (96%) said that they believe a cloud model could make it easier to democratise their data. And of those who have already moved workloads to the cloud 73% said it has made a positive impact regarding what they can do with data.

One success story to demonstrate this is Revolut, the fastest growing fintech in the world and a European unicorn company.

A cloud Revolut-ion

The overwhelming success of the organisation has led to explosive growth, with data volumes increasing 2000% in a 12 months. Such development made it unsustainable to continue managing data using existing operational databases in the long term, with some data queries taking hours to run.

The deployment of Exasol’s high-performance in-memory analytics database running on Google Cloud Platform was chosen to combat this. Transitioning to a cloud-based model reduced SQL query times from hours to seconds, with relevant dashboards available to every employee. Better and faster insights and true data democratisation means performing tasks such as checking funds in bank accounts to targeting deals through user segmentation is now optimised.

Achieving data excellence

No matter what data strategy an organisation has, speed and performance are fundamental. Once you can guarantee everyone in your organisation has the power to access and analyse data quickly, you’ll be able to create business value more effectively than ever before.


[CGG1]I like this!

[HS2]Just remember, sometimes a CDO’s responsibility covers the CoE and Innovation Lab so they are not mutually exclusive..

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