Data Democratization: A New Roadmap for Business in the 21st Century

In this special guest feature, Christian Anschuetz, Chief Digital Officer at UL, discusses his belief that data will “democratize” business decisions, leading to better decision-making, new business models and a vastly different business landscape. Christian’s responsibilities include leading UL through a digital transformation and engaging directly with customers, retailers and distributors. He is also responsible for establishing IT strategies, goals and priorities and providing leadership on key technology initiatives in the areas of enterprise resource planning, business process automation, computer systems validation, and electronic communications. At UL, Christian previously served as Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer since 2008. Christian earned a B.S. in Computer Information Systems and a B.A. in Economics, and distinguished himself as a decorated officer in the United States Marine Corps.

According to an IBM Marketing Cloud report, 90 percent of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone – that’s 2.5 quintillion bytes of data a day. With numbers like that, it’s no wonder individuals, businesses and societies are experiencing data overload.

But as new technologies emerge and the data growth rate continues to increase exponentially, can companies uncover useful perspectives from this data and draw the right insights to make better business decisions? Yes, they can and it starts with the democratization of data.

Historically, companies would rely upon a single authority to drive their decision making, be it a powerful governmental or international body or a world-renowned expert in a field. That approach is increasingly antiquated now that billions of viewpoints on any given subject can be found in online data. The plethora of perspectives is the reason big data is so powerful today. Whether businesses need outlooks related to quality, trust, safety, security or sustainability, the best answers can be found in the “democracy of data.” More and more companies are recognizing this as they attempt to access new markets, drive product quality improvements, understand their suppliers and assess their risks.

Accessing New Markets

The volumes of data available are reshaping the model for how companies bring products to market. While we test fixed products for safety, performance, quality and more, we are evolving towards a future where data analyses of the world’s supply chains and compliance databases will help determine whether products coming into markets meet necessary requirements. For example, individual retailers and distributors, such as large e-retailers or brick-and-mortar big box stores, may have even higher standards required for sale in specific global markets – this new data-driven approach will better assist suppliers of products in meeting these higher thresholds for market entry. Finally, by closely connecting supplier data with the regulatory landscape, we will compress approval timeframes, helping companies gain entry into new markets more quickly without compromising safety.

Informing Product Design

As a result of the data sets now available, companies can harness vast numbers of insights and perspectives to influence product design. By examining regulations in combination with all of the definitions available for a specific product, companies can gain a clearer picture into its overall ecosystem as well as specific sales markets before that product goes into production. This predictive analysis not only informs design, but drives quality, performance and compliance from the onset of product development.

For example, a television manufacturer no longer has to wait to test for safety, performance and regulatory compliance until after building a line of televisions. They can now start by analyzing volumes of data available on market insights, regulations and compliance needs in order to conform to the market where they want to sell that television. This data-driven approach aids product design from the get-go, ensuring it meets all safety and performance criteria before the necessary product testing is ever conducted.

Assessing Risk and Protecting Brand Reputation

As companies become more global there are several critical supply chain management issues that must be addressed. From controlling costs and compliance requirements to customer service and supplier-partner relationships, enterprises are facing more complex operational challenges than ever before. With data, companies now have greater insight and transparency into their supply chains to allow them to pinpoint challenges at a granular level by tracing each manufacturer, product, geographic location and end user.

For example, if one of the suppliers in a company’s supply chain used materials that were not compliant, the company now has the ability to trace the materials in question, as well as the product and market impacted. The ability to uncover supply chain challenges at this level places the company in a position to correct the situation as quickly as possible by mitigating the risks, engaging new suppliers and communicating with customers. This type of data analysis opens up a whole new world of solving operational challenges for companies that can help instill greater trust and enhance brand reputations.

At the end of the day, data democratization is not about chasing data for data’s sake, but rather accumulating many viewpoints so that businesses can solve real issues and challenges. Rich data insights that help a company reduce its risk are not possible via one source, no matter how powerful, influential or expert. What’s required is a consideration of all types of different perspectives to come up with the greatest insights that help a company’s leadership drive their business in the direction they want to go. That’s the data democratization roadmap for business today.