Home Blog Customer experience Democratizing insights: a tightrope for leaders

Democratizing insights: a tightrope for leaders

“I want other teams to get closer to customers. But we have to clean up the mess when they do it badly.”

In many organizations, there is a growing demand to ‘democratize’ access to research tools, data and insights about customers.

This can often be a double-edged sword for Experience and Insights leaders, but let’s start with the positives.

A focus on customer centricity means that more colleagues in more departments want to embed the customer perspective into their decisions. One of the quickest ways of giving that access is by enabling colleagues to self-serve basic requests. An example of this would be to give colleagues access to the full database of feedback and experience data and allow them to develop their own metrics and KPIs based off that feedback. This self-serve model allows experience and Insights specialists can focus on higher value work.

In theory, this is a good thing. But it rarely works out so simply.

As more non-expert users work with customer insights data, the risks increase: poor design leads to unreliable data; poor analysis leads to the wrong conclusions.

Asking the wrong people the wrong question using a self-service tool, with no governance: a little knowledge really can be a dangerous thing.

So, how do Experience and Insights teams strike the right balance between control and empowerment?

Like most challenges, this is as much about behavior change as it is about technology. Here three tips for leaders as they dance on the democratization tightrope. 

Engage users first

Do you know how your stakeholders really work? They are the users of your insights and experience data, so it’s essential that you take the time to really understand them. What data do they need? What are the workflows in their teams? What pressures are they are under?

Building a clear picture with solid foundation of user research will help you:

  • Understand how democratizing access to insights can make their lives easier
  • Define what can be done by other teams and what needs to stay with Insights and Experience specialists
  • Identify useful early adopters who can be your ‘lead users’ to test new processes or technology and give you feedback.

Set the boundaries

This is the key to effective insights democratization: enabling other teams to do certain types of work themselves but retaining high complexity or specialist work in Experience and Insights teams.

Guardrails and clear boundaries are essential, and the best approach is to develop a framework jointly with stakeholders to govern the process.

Any framework should have different levels or hierarchies to reflect the differing risk associated with different types of data or research. This could be a traffic light system, numbered tiers, a ‘project pyramid’ – or any other system that works for your organization.

The most important thing is that there are clear, documented rules for what can be done by different stakeholder teams – and what can’t.

Deploy the right technology

Finally, technology has a strong role to play.

Experience, research, and data analytics software needs to strike a careful balance of two key needs: ease-of-use and control.

Ease of use is the primary demand of non-experts when working with insights technology. This includes intuitive interfaces; but it also relates to templates, education, onboarding and human support.

Control is about minimizing the scope for things to go wrong – from badly designed surveys to incorrect analysis and even personal data breaches. Important features include tiered user permissions; review and signoff features; and clear audit trails and version histories.

At Forsta, we’re privileged to work with nearly 1,000 agencies around the world, from boutique specialists to the largest international networks. Nearly two million Customer Insights & Experience professionals use our technology.

Download this white paper to read more about the challenges facing modern Insights and Experience leaders – and the strategies to overcome them.


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