Chief Data Officers and Data Democracy: The Difference Between Theory and Practice

Chief Data Officers have a lot of things on their plates. And one of those things is giving users freer access to the data they need. This is what we call "data democracy." Most CDOs like the idea of data democracy in theory. But in practice, the CDOs we talk to find that efforts to create a data democracy face at least four common barriers:

  • Training: Users who could misuse or misread data need a version of access with “training wheels." Advanced users could work with fewer controls.
  • Trust: CDOs take the policing part of their jobs seriously and mistrust users who want analytic support for decisions already made. Those in regulated industries like healthcare also worry about honest mistakes with data that could nevertheless risk people's lives.
  • Security: The more access users have to data, the greater the chance of a leak or breach—either through negligence, ignorance, or malice.
  • Skepticism: Personally identifiable information (PII) protections make self-service access hard to imagine for some CDOs. They also doubt that IT can consistently maintain the needed level of security.

All these barriers boil down to two things: control and access. And balancing control and access make up a large part of what keeps CDOs up at night. To learn more about what makes a CDO a CDO, check out our 5-minute Guide to the Challenges of a CDO.

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