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Democratization of Technology: Opportunities in a Post-Pandemic World

Democratized Technology

By Prachi Sukhatankar for PSC

Democratization of technology, where technology is ubiquitously accessible and business users take an active role in technology-based solutions, has risen to be a huge trend. It also has the potential to introduce significant innovation and long-term resiliency within agencies. The increasing complexities of a connected world and persistent federal budgetary pressures call for expanding the current outlook and taking a deeper look at democratization of technology. Leaders in both public and private sectors have significant opportunities to drive the democratization top-down, anchor it via proper governance, and understand the future trends that will drive additional transformation.

Democratization of technology was in Gartner’s top 10 strategic technology trends for 2020 along with other heavy hitters like hyperautomation, blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI) security, distributed cloud and autonomous things. What exactly do we mean by democratization of technology? Gartner’s definition states “providing people with easy access to technical or business expertise without extensive (and costly) training. It focuses on four key areas — application development, data and analytics, design and knowledge — and is often referred to as citizen access.” True opportunities lie for leaders if they were to measure key metrics of democratization and in turn use these to make decisions:

  • Accessibility (easy access to expertise): this the prevalent way of thinking where organizations look at how easily and with optimal training, a particular technology can be made available to their staff. However, there are additional characteristics to consider.
  • Adoption (the extent to which the technology is embraced by the citizen developers): this would depend on variety of factors like ease of use, whether the citizens are digital natives and have an innate disposition to technology, and the level of engagement within the cohorts.
  • Embedded-ness (the level to which democratization has permeated within the organization): while citizen developers act as the change agents, this metric is to gauge how pervasive the change is within the overall business and processes of an organization, how uniformly it is distributed within the different departments, and how much it has become part of the organization’s culture. Think of the time when you open your smart phone to check weather predictions or look at some eCommerce recommendations. How often do you pause to think that there is an AI operating behind it? In this case, the AI has become fully embedded in our routine – it is part of everyday gadgets and actions – thus invisible and not so daunting anymore to its users.
  • Longevity (how long has it been part of the organization’s culture and processes): this metric allows comparing different technologies over a time horizon and leverage the right technologies for strategic planning. For example, this metric along with others can be used to do strategic bucketing along the lines of quick wins Vs. big wins.
  • Available anywhere (how available the technology is across geographies, remote work locations, devices etc.): this metric may be largely driven by cost but also by top-down advocacy and organizational policies including security, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and other regulations.

As an example, a leader driving democratization within an organization may take a portfolio view across these metrics and take necessary actions. As shown below, with other dimensions being equal, Tech #1 has lower adoption and Tech#2 has lower embedded-ness, signifying that the latter is embraced by the citizen developer cohort but perhaps requires a boost via additional organizational change management.

Democratized Technology

This is an excerpt from the original article titled “Taking Democratization of Technology to the Next Level: Opportunities for Leaders in a Post-Pandemic World” was published during the Professional Services Council (PSC) Tech Trends Conference. For the more in-depth article which includes examples of organizations that have embraced democratization of technology and a breakdown of the six personas boosters, read more here.

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