Partner ResearchDemocratization of Technology and the Changing Role of IT
HSO and Natixis.
How we view and use technology is constantly evolving.
At the Fall 2021 SME Forum, a session featuring George Marootian, EVP, Head of Technology, Natixis Investment Managers, delved into the topic of the Democratization of Technology—how end users are and want to have more control over the technology they use and what IT must do to accommodate and even encourage this evolution.
The First Wave of Democratization
In the last 20 years, the role of IT has changed to meet end user demand for self-service technology. No longer is IT the holder of all the keys to technology—managing everything hardware to passwords; IT is now facilitating and managing the shift to end users having more control over how they access, control, and leverage data.
Putting the tools to work with data in the hands of end users has been a necessary and beneficial first wave of what’s being called the “democratization of technology,” spurred on by the COVID-19 pandemic, when people were forced to work from home. Even those who were not demanding self-service options had to became more engaged with technology. IT empowers users to tell their own story with data by moving processes and workflows onto cloud platforms while ensuring that the proper controls are in place with governance and transparent, trackable systems.
This wave has not only empowered users, but it has also taken some of the burden off IT; in fact, many IT departments, swamped by requests during the early days of work-from-home, began to see that their end users were actually figuring things out for themselves, which was generally a good thing. But that’s only the beginning.
Democratization, Wave 2: The Ability to Build
While the first wave represented a big advance, where IT took the initiative to push technology to the business lines, the next wave is already here. A new generation of end user is pulling technology from IT. This generation wants the building blocks, direction, and support to build or be part of a team that collaborates to build tools and platforms. They don’t want to just consume data in ways that are more powerful; they want to create solutions that provide them with more powerful insights, capabilities, or workflows…whatever they need to do their job better.
And why shouldn’t they? They are the ones who best understand what they need, so it follows that they should be involved in development of the solution that will address that need. Their knowledge of the need and IT’s technical expertise is a powerful combination, and today’s IT leaders need to be thinking about how they can push out as much building and self-solutioning to business lines—as close to the end user—as possible.
That can be done several ways. Organizations can hire people, or they can recognize talent within the organization and reorganize to put these people in the right places to start solutioning.
Other than providing technical expertise and guidance and helping to get the right resources in place, IT’s most important role in this next wave is finding a balance. You want to give end users the freedom to build, but that freedom must be calibrated based on capabilities and other factors. The goal is conscientious alignment—determining how to work together with end users to produce the best results safely and in sync across the organization.
Think about this wave as putting up guardrails around how those capabilities are being provided to the business lines or end users so that the organization is protected from chaos. This is accomplished through establishing a governance framework, looking at what is driving decision making, and considering how the proposed solution will affect other parts of the business, and so on.
Establishing a Culture of Encouragement
The ultimate challenge of data democratization is, however, in the basic understanding that all users are not the same. While some are demanding more control, others are afraid of it. Some have more experience than others. Some are fully immersed; others are afraid of breaking something.
The goal of today’s IT leadership must be to encourage and support, regardless of where the user is coming from. Users need to understand that mistakes are a part of the process. Failure should be seen as an opportunity to learn, not to quit.
The thing to keep in mind is that involving end users in the solutioning process benefits both them and IT. There are valuable resources out there, ready to take on the challenge of finding new ways to do things better and faster—and those resources are on the front lines, with invaluable knowledge and experience.
Watch this video to see an example of the Democratization of Technology in practice