In my 30-plus years of leading and supporting data programs for major financial brands, data democratization has gone from wish lists to a must-have. Over the next few blog posts, I will discuss the concept of data democratization and why it’s critical for financial institutions, from banks to insurance companies, to embrace it.
Data is among a financial services firm’s greatest assets. If properly governed, it provides the foundation for decision making, regulatory compliance, competitive advantage, operational efficiency, customer satisfaction, and revenue generation. However, in order to realize all the benefits that can be derived from the wealth of stockpiled data, the business needs to be able to identify what data is available, its quality, and how to access it.
What Is Data Democratization?
Data democratization refers to making a firm’s data resources available to all employees across the enterprise. While simple in concept, it can be complicated in practice. A firm’s data resources are certain to contain personally identifiable information (PII), material non-public information (MNPI), and other sensitive information that must be made available only on a need-to-know basis.
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In the broadest sense, data democratization often appears at odds with the very concept of data governance: the management and control of data.
There is, however, an approach that can satisfy the conflicting objectives of availability and control. The solution lies in the concept of metadata. Metadata, as a set of data that describes and gives data democratization information about other data, provides the abstraction layer necessary to allow the data resources to be searched and found without exposing the underlying data.
Depending on the maturity of a firm’s data program, metadata resources may be as basic as file/table names and a list of data fields. Alternatively, metadata can encompass full descriptions with business terms, annotations of key/principal/critical data elements, standardized taxonomies, data quality rules and scorecards, and the entire lineage that documents the life of each element, from first instantiation through consumption. The richer the metadata, the more power it has to foster the democratization of data within the enterprise.
In order for metadata to serve the organization, it must be fully accessible and searchable. By nature of their roles, data stewards and other data experts are well versed in the use of various governance tools. However, these tools alone do not serve the needs of more casual business users. Individuals outside of the data or technology functions likely do not understand the nuances of lineage, quality, normalizations, and transformations. They would also not know which tool to use to begin their investigation or which attributes to search. Instead, they simply want to find a source of information for the task at hand.
An intelligent, integrated search capability must be created to unleash the full benefits of data democratization and guide users on their data journey.
In my next post, I will highlight an approach to developing a metadata search solution.
In the meantime, if you are interested in learning more about this topic, consider downloading our new guide The Search for Data Democratization in Financial Services.