Creating Value with a Democratization of Data Strategy

By Jeff Miller, Director of Smart Manufacturing and Innovation

My family and I love taking trips together and just like millions of others, we love hiking to beautiful waterfalls.  In many cases, when we hike to see waterfalls they are overcrowded because they are so beautiful.  However, in some rare cases, we may find that one gem of a waterfall where no other person can be found.  I had this luxury when I lived on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.  On that island, far from the touristy areas of Waikiki, there is a wonderful spot that the locals know well but wasn’t well advertised called Sacred Falls.

I always loved taking friends and family to this remote spot to show them this picture perfect quintessential Hawaiian experience.  An 1100-foot waterfall with the final 80 feet emptying into a deep plunge pool great for swimming, all set inside the narrow green walls of the valley carved by the water itself.  Today this waterfall is closed due to a tragic and fatal accident in 1999. In fact, it is extremely dangerous to enter the valley and the local government has had to start enforcing large fines to stop people from hiking to the falls.  So why are some people willing to risk life, money, time and resources to see these waterfalls?

In general, why do people around the globe flock to waterfalls in such great numbers?  I believe that it is not just because they’re beautiful, but also because we instinctively know that water is one of the few things on earth that has tremendous intrinsic value.  Water is valued for its use in navigation and transportation.  Water is highly valued for recreational enjoyment and beauty.  Water is valued for its energy.  Water is valued as a necessity for life itself.

Unlike water, data has no intrinsic value.  When was the last time you saw a crowded group of people who traveled hundreds of miles gathered around a server saying “Wow, look at that beautiful data.”  In many cases, we even restrict access to the data and we treat the data like a gem stored in a vault where only the few and privileged can gain access.  This is extremely counterintuitive because companies have spent scores of resources just to collect the data.  Data has no value until it is turned into actionable information which requires the data to be mined, refined and then visualized.  Even then, the data doesn’t provide value until someone acts or makes a decision based on the data.  Accessing data in a way that a variety of users can find meaning is one of the greatest roadblocks in many digitization journeys.

There are multiple products available for purchase that enable visibility, but many companies have lacked the financial capital or focus to purchase the software, install the software, train staff and then ultimately support the software.  This is why I am fond of simpler user interfaces that require very little training, that have intuitive functions with very little software footprint to manage and maintain.  One of the keys to our InSource Industry X0 Packaged Solutions, is that not only do we make it easy to collect the data and store the data, but we also provide an easy visualization interface as part of the solution.  Access to the data is as simple as logging into a web-site.  No software to install and support nor systems to maintain due to its cloud presence.  The user interface is simple but effective.  There is no need for day long training seminars, just short video lessons available on YouTube to learn new techniques much like how you would learn additional features of an iPhone or Android phone.  In short, an easy-button for data access.

As a result, our Industry X0 Packaged Solutions, inevitably lead to what I label the “Democratization of Data.”  Democratization of Data is about giving larger audiences easy access to data, enabling group input, innovation and yielding a larger number of actionable ideas.

A few years back, I re-visited an organization where my software development team had developed a web-based tool for allowing the entire company to access their MES data. Everyone in the company was given access to key real-time production and quality metrics. Our original vision for user interface was meticulously crafted into the design of the system.  And largely, those ideas were on target.  But there was a twist I did not expect.  When I got to truly see how the individual operational teams had evolved to use the data to drive their daily routines and tasks, I was amazed by their creativity.  They took the data in directions I never imagined.  Simply put, they were solving problems, creating value and making a difference for their company in ways impossible without the democratized access to data.  With easily accessible data, you get more brains and more eyes which provide more horsepower for the organization.

If your company thirsts for information, let them drink more freely and see the waterfall of value flow through your organization.  Click for more information on InSource Industry X0 Packaged Solutions.