What is Data Enablement?

Data enablement is a practice employed by businesses to help employees work more efficiently and effectively with company data. It typically comprises a variety of methodologies, workflows, and safeguards to empower employees to access, curate, and use important data in their everyday work.

Data enablement is both an extension and evolution of existing data governance and data management policies—but with a greater emphasis on data accessibility, literacy, and decision-making, rather than simply collecting and storing data.

The role and impact of data enablement

Organizations collect a vast amount of data every day, both from external and internal sources. Much of this data concerns customers and prospects, including personal and firmographic data, purchase or service histories, contact records, and more. But it can also include internal data, such as employee records, financial information, project and program details, and analytics.

The traditional role of data governance has been to collect these types of information and keep them secure, especially data points that are confidential. These initiatives have typically been less concerned with how this data is actually used, however. In response, many organizations are adopting data enablement practices to encourage more widespread use of data to drive strategic business decisions.

When they do, they see several benefits, such as:

  • Greater proactivity: Data is no longer something that passively exists, it’s an active tool that employees can seek out and employ.
  • Better decision-making: Evidence-based, data-driven decisions tend to be more successful than those made purely on the whims or preferences of leadership.
  • A sense of ownership: Data enablement promotes employees and their teams to continually own, maintain, and value the data they create, instead of entering it once and then letting it sit idle.

Main principles of data enablement

Exact data enablement implementations vary by company, but there are several common aspects.

Making data accessible

Critical information should not be locked away in databases or data catalogs which employees struggle to access. It should be easy to find, access, and share in the exact format they need it, wherever and whenever they need it.

Making data complete and cohesive

Data should be stored in one centralized system, and not in siloed systems all containing different pieces of organizational and customer data. It should also be up to date and complete at all times; companies often employ data enrichment strategies to accomplish this.

Making data secure

Data should be easy to access, but it should also be role-based, with employees able to access only the amount of information they need. It should have proper safeguards in place to prevent unauthorized access, breaches, or changes.

Making data a part of the company culture

Data enablement can sometimes require a transformative shift, especially if a company is not used to perceiving and working with data in this way. Organizational change management tactics may be needed to get employees at all levels to approach data differently.

Making technology a priority

Data enablement requires a powerful, versatile, and user-friendly system that can handle accessibility and security requirements. This may require a digital transformation, if a company is using outdated systems that cannot communicate with one another.