Data scientists, analysts, architects, and, yes, data’s protectors share a DNA with the superheroes of the comic book world.

Superheroes help us imagine brighter, better futures. Their superpowers and heroic deeds inspire generations of readers (and viewers) to overcome adversity and make the world a better place. They serve as powerful symbols of what we can aspire to be, as individuals and co-workers. Of course, superheroes also have to deal with complex moral questions, forced to consider the implications of their power and choose to use it for good or evil. 

In the real world, data promises to deliver those bright and better futures—for business, for customers, for society—but it’s not cut and dry. This story needs its heroes who will wield data and use great power responsibly. They use data to inform decision-making, spot trends and extract insights. These insights might fuel innovation, transform customer service, generate ground- breaking products, or deliver crucial medical insights.

But what basic powers do our analysts, managers and scientists need?  

First of all, they need the exceptional vision of a hero like Hawkman, who has the ability to see great distances through the complete light spectrum, even in complete darkness. 

Allied with this vision, is the need to be able to see into the future, like Doctor Fate, who can use magic to predict future events. 

And then they need to be able to move across time and space at incredible speed, like The Flash and Quicksilver, who can perceive time differently from others.

With great data comes great responsibility

Uncle Ben: ”Remember: With great power…comes great responsibility.”

Peter Parker: “Are you afraid that I’m gonna turn into some kind of criminal?”

In the data world, why should we need clairvoyance, magic or supernatural powers? And why is so much data unused or difficult to access?

The answer is because accessing sensitive data is anything but simple.

Data teams face a growing list of challenges because data is everywhere. It’s being generated and used at record rates, and the data ecosystem is more varied than ever. New regulations spring up in different locations and vertical markets, each with their own interpretation of how to protect data use. Just keeping track of new legislation requires a superhero with a brain the size of a planet. 

In short, the challenge for companies is to find an equilibrium of using data, and protecting it.

To crack this challenge, we need to assemble a team of data superheroes who will work together to utilize, enable and inspire the use of data for good. Our avenging team need to work together to lever technology to build a framework of technology and processes towards a common goal. That goal is to enable the safe flow of data between those who own the data and those who use it for a brighter future. The data must have privacy and security protections baked in to meet the needs of risk and regulations, regardless of location.

But what are the important characteristics for each of the members of the team we are assembling?

Unleash the potential of the data owners

They look like normal people, walk like normal people and talk like normal people but, like the Incredible Hulk, these people have massive untapped potential. Data owners are the people responsible for data, such as finance, marketing and customer experience teams in lines of business or operations teams. They understand where data comes from, its quality, and what purposes it can be used for. They own the risk associated with data, and in many cases set the terms of use. 

Their potential is the power of their data to fuel insight and turbocharge analytics.  

But like the Hulk, they need the help of other superheroes to reach their potential …

Tap the unrivaled wisdom of the data guardians 

Data guardians are the legal, risk and compliance teams who watch over data use across the organization and ensure that data is used responsibility within the bounds of legislation. Like Batman watching over Gotham City, they’re unassuming but reliable. Also, like Batman, they have incredible intelligence which they use to process large amounts of information like international data regulations. They need Batman’s famous utility belt of tools to define and enforce policies to ensure data is used safely at all times.

Release the visionary power of the data consumers

Our data consumers are the analysts, business managers and data scientists who have the vision of Hawkman and the predictive skills of Doctor Fate. To release their visionary powers, they need the data owners to unleash their potential protected by the unrivaled wisdom of the data guardians, 

Once we have assembled our team and given them the tools to work together, they can take on the world.

Remember the back story

Every superhero franchise has its canon—the foundational stories we look back on for inspiration. Data heroes are no different. Here are three stories of great data use that should spark every data heroes’ imagination:

1983: An origin story

Intuit analyzed geographical data and was surprised to learn that 50% of users were accessing its personal finance management tool at their office or other place of work. When Intuit talked to customers, they said the platform was so good they extended it to manage their business accounting systems. This was the advent of the product we know as Quickbooks today.

2013: A predictable reboot

Netflix needs hits to justify its spending. In their user data, they saw an overlap between users who liked the original, British version House of Cards, and other content involving the director David Fincher and actor Kevin Spacey (this was 2011). They designed the rebooted show around this correlation and knew they had a hit before filming even began. In 2013, research showed 86% of Netflix users were less likely to cancel their subscriptions because of House of Cards alone.

2020: A breakout year

A new generation faces a new and deadly challenge—the global coronavirus pandemic. AstraZeneca and Pfizer used machine learning and AI alongside the breakthrough technology of reverse vaccinology (RV) to dramatically accelerate their COVID-19 vaccination discoveries, positively impacting the lives of millions who could get back to normal life with less risk of serious illness.

Data heroes: The next generation

Who will be our next famous data heroes and how can we equip them with tools to do battle in today’s data world where they have to take on different challenges?

The reality is, of course, that technology has to come to the rescue, not superpowers. For some of our potential heroes, the technology is already in use. Our data owners have myriad tools to capture, store data and catalog it comprehensively.

Data consumers have fantastic solutions to analyze data, whether by using powerful dashboards or techniques like machine learning or AI.

The missing superpowers are ones to grapple with the burgeoning world of data legislation then unlock data access for data consumers. We need to do this by providing access to data that meets the requirements of those regulations but retains its usefulness for the data consumers’ needs.

To deliver these superpowers, new market segments are emerging.

Data Compliance Solutions offer Superman-like capabilities to automatically interpret complex regulations, such as the GDPR, into a set of actionable insights, without the need for expensive time-consuming legal advice.

Data Security Platforms offer the transformational capabilities of Metamorpho for data. The platforms provide quick and straightforward access to data for data consumers, but ensure that data is transformed to keep within regulation and risk boundaries. Access to data is controlled at the most granular level on a range of attributes to ensure the maximum amount of data is made available for a particular need. Any sensitive data is transformed by the latest privacy enhancing techniques (PETS) to be safe to use.

A data hero can be anyone

Lt. Gordon: “shouldn’t the people know the hero who saved them?”

Batman: “A hero can be anyone.”

Technology can make data heroes of anyone in your organization.  You can supercharge organizational efficiency, innovation and growth, even as data stores, locations, regulations, and requests proliferate. 

Read Privitar’s latest report “The New Fuel of Enterprise Innovation” in partnership with Corinium Intelligence, where industry data leaders and Privitar experts offer actionable advice on how to become a data hero; the six traits of a data hero; how to turn those traits into practice and fuel innovation and growth at your organization.