Partner ResearchDemocratization of Technology: Addressing Potential Pitfalls
Over the past few years, we have seen the infrastructure, technology, tools, applications, and capabilities in the world become logarithmically more accessible to internal clients. In addition, employees are becoming more interested in getting their hands dirty and building their own user experience to assist with their daily, monthly, and annual workflows and objectives. This concept of the democratization of technology is ever expanding and giving businesses the opportunity to reap the benefits of talent they already have in house that wasn’t being utilized before.
Democratization Technology Pitfalls
In previous blogs on this topic, we discussed the difference between the democratization of data and the democratization of technology and why it matters, as well as the role of IT in 2022 to embrace the democratization of technology. With that foundation laid, the next logical topic to discuss for any IT leader grappling with democratizing technology within their organization is the potential pitfalls and concerns.
In this article, we take a deep dive into exploring those potential challenges faced by leaders of the visionary businesses who have taken the democratization of technology concept and want to run with it. Hazem Gamal, COO of the SME Forum and a technology visionary who has already been running with the concept, shares some surprisingly optimistic insights into the topic.
Recognizing the Potential Value of Creative Solutions from the Ground Up
After spending more than two decades in the field, Gamal is convinced that the most important aspect of pursuing the idea of democratization is not about the technology itself, but the extraction of value: “If you have good infrastructure, tools, and technologies underneath your business to process robust data, then you are much closer to the end game for the user, which is providing insights and capabilities for decision support.”
Gamal talked about his time working at a leading global full-service mutual fund asset manager and investment bank and how he discovered for the first time the power of democratizing technology to come up with creative solutions from end users who would otherwise not be driving technological processes and workflows. And these solutions coming from the front lines benefitted the company immensely:
“There was a minority of employees who had the skill set and the business acumen and were willing to take the time to engineer and optimize their everyday processes. They would mine the data and come up with all sorts of assessments and interpretations that helped us better understand what data they were using, how they were using it, how they were combining it, what kinds of insights and output they were getting from it and so forth. Then we would try to institutionalize the resulting reports, formulas, and algorithms we wanted to make available to everybody else.”
However, obtaining, implementing, and maintaining the appropriate technological infrastructure and tools to empower employees on the ground to generate such solutions can be a challenge, especially if they were hastily put in place during the pandemic. That’s why picking out the right technology and introducing it into the company is so critical the first time around.
Separating Good Intentions from Reality
Thanks to democratization of technology within organizations, we’ve seen that companies benefit immensely from innovative solutions coming from human resources that were before being underutilized for collecting, analyzing, and interpreting the robust data that they interact with every day.
However, Gamal talked about the challenge of deciding who should interpret the final analyses and using them to make informed business decisions. The pressing question, he says, is, “How close can I get the resulting reports to the appropriate ‘decision maker’ without any interruption of interpretation or delay?” He also pointed out that getting the updated and processed data to a decision maker could be completely digital in nature, even being devoid of any human interaction.
The risk of misinterpretation from putting other people on a team in between the end consumer or “decision maker” and the raw data, as well as the risk of having the wrong end consumer, are not the only concerns related to technology democratization. There is also the risk for misalignment between expectations at the senior level and how those expectations are being interpreted and directed at the tactical levels.
For example, employees could find themselves in situations where they read a senior management dashboard and can’t figure out where they sit on that dashboard. Or, from a leadership perspective, if a manager can’t, by looking at a particular chart or any given chart, recognize how they can get down to the individual who’s affecting it directly, then there is a problem. However, that doesn’t mean it’s malicious; it could be that there is misalignment, or the data is not there, or the data is not categorized correctly.
Therefore, the democratization of technology has opened up fantastic opportunities to align goals, values, and priorities within an organization both strategically and tactically. The issue could be mechanical, within the reports, or even in the dashboards themselves. Ultimately, these homegrown solutions are being used as a vehicle to bring the affected parties together and drive collaboration clarity.
How are Firms Democratizing Technology for Alignment?
A great way to get started is with the Microsoft Power Platform which can integrate with other solutions like Salesforce and Marketo. For example, a firm with the goal of doubling sales growth was being held back by a system with a bad user interface, lacking personas, and offering no insights for next best action. In just 3 months, HSO used the Power Platform to design and roll out a Client Engagement Hub with Next Best Action that is integrated with Dynamics 365 CRM and Marketo, pulling their team into alignment.
See it in Action: Client Engagement Hub/Next Best Action in Dynamics 365 Sales (CRM) (Length 3:36)
Contributor: Tom Berger
With 20+ years of field experience, Tom Berger is Vice President & Global Industry Director of Financial Services for HSO.