How data democracy creates a customer-centric organisation

“Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.” – W. Edwards Deming

We’ve all been there. That meeting, where the big decisions are being made. Someone may have presented a graph or two, but you already know what the outcome will be and what influenced the decision. The person with the loudest voice, the strongest opinion, the best relationships.

In these situations, opinions are driving decisions. Phrases like, “In my experience the customer likes…” or “I just don’t think the market will go for…” are not uncommon. But the reality is, what should be driving your business decisions is cold, hard data.


Why being customer-centric starts with a data democracy

In most organisations, data is only accessible to a select few and to add insult to injury (for people who crave a data set to get them through the day), those who have access to the data don’t always use it.

Creating a data democracy has the effect of removing power from the hierarchy, the loud and the opinionated. In fact, it removes opinions altogether.

By providing fair and equitable access to data across your business you are creating an environment where everyone can contribute, influence decision-making and back their gut feelings with solid facts.


“Data is neutral. It’s numbers. It’s unbiased truth.” – Hugh MacLeod


But what impact does a data democracy have on customer-centricity?

Quite simply, with more people comes more insights, more questions and more innovation.  A data democracy and the ability to use data to influence decision making is one of the single biggest tools a customer-centric organisation can have.

After all, customer understanding doesn’t just sit with the product team, the UX designer, the business analyst or senior managers. Providing everyone with access to data has the potential to unleash the power of your entire organisation. Giving people the information they need to create ‘sticky’ customer experiences and aligning them to decision making that enriches customer value.


The four stages of data evolution


How to create a data democracy

Getting started with a data democracy is a combination of letting go and having trust.

  1. Give a united view of data
    While you may want to limit individual permissions to edit data, provide teams with access to the same
    data sets.
  1. Make it simple
    Not everybody is going to be equally data literate so replace tables and data sets with visualisations and dashboards. Train and upskill people and teams in analysis where required.
  1. Establishing a metrics culture
    Make it clear that metrics, not opinions, are what matter most. Reward teams for sharing data and collaborating to identify insights. Ensure the people with the loudest voices back their claims with data.
  1. Use data for good and not evil
    Be careful not to use data to shame groups who are underperforming, and be careful of playing people off against each other by comparing teams.
  1. Build quality into data collection
    If you are going to remove subjectivity, you need to ensure that everyone trusts the data. While it can take a while to clean old data, ensure new data meets standards with predictive text as well as conditional and mandatory fields.


The benefits are greater: customer-centric conversations

A data democracy results in people having richer, more outcome-focused conversations, without the friction and politics which can sometimes enter into more opinion-based debates.

Ultimately the goal is to create an environment where data-driven conversations are the norm so that you can focus on being customer-centric through the insights of your entire team.

We know that data democracy is easier said than done, but companies that successfully move towards this are the ones who stand the greatest chance of winning the customer-centric battle.