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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.

Decisions Around Democratization Need Not be Democratic!
The tenets of democratization of technology are powerful given the scale of innovation that can be achieved, its impact on human lives, talent development and retention aspects, and an organizational resiliency that can be built through it.

Setting up democratization for success requires additional thought on the part of leaders BUT the decisions around democratization need not be democratic!

  • The decisions need to be driven by leaders who can drive strategic business alignment, governance, and organizational change management.
  • This also includes establishing the right processes, policies and frameworks including but not limited to the security, legal and ethical aspects.
  • This can be mapped to the agency’s workforce transformation goals and initiatives by defining the impact as well as risk profile at the individual (solo contributor) level, department level, and agency level.
  • Defining, tracking, and aggregating metrics at the department as well as agency level is an important part of the equation. It provides transparency and acts as a feedback mechanism to make small and big pivots to the roadmap.
  • The roadmap should also consider drivers from the broader population. With democratization of information, there are specific trends and voices from citizen segments that need to be integrated with the democratization of technology.

Five Key Metrics to Consider When Investing in Democratized Technology

Democratized Technology

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.

Six personas of democratized technologyAs 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.

Guiding Democratization as it Accelerates into the Future
It’s important to note that the democratization of technology may only be accelerating. It is conceivable that whatever the technology of future, it may become democratized. For example, AI and data science started off as a niche discipline and got democratized only recently with advances in computing, Internet, social media and mobile. As another example, digital twins have been traditionally used to create a digital-physical bridge to model complex systems and execute operational scenarios in a cost-effective fashion. However, the convergence of digital twin and AI coupled with high-performance computing is pushing the spectrum towards the ability for humans to create their own intelligent twins. These would be digital profiles created using the data generated by humans and their devices inclusive of their behavior and decision patterns. When this becomes democratized, there are implications in terms of defining the separation between a digital assistant and a digital replica of self.

Some of these future trends will continue to pose questions around privacy, ethics, sociopolitical and economic impact. The leaders should anticipate, plan, and consider this challenge as an opportunity to build thoughtful innovation and take the missions forward.

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 (as shown in the graphic above), read more here.

 

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