Democratization of Data vs. Democratization of Technology: The Difference and Why It Matters
The way in which businesses see and use technology is always changing. Evolving. In a recent blog, The Role of IT in 2022: Embrace Democratization of Technology, we discussed this evolving concept around users demanding more control over the technology they use and what that means to IT, both in meeting those demands and encouraging those who might not be ready yet to take on that role. In this blog post, we break the concept down into two distinct waves: the data democratization wave and the technology democratization wave.
Data democratization: More user control over the data they use
Data democratization has been around for quite some time now, but let’s just clarify so it can be understood as part of the bigger picture. It can be looked at as a subset of technology democratization, focusing specifically on data. Data democratization is the concept of ensuring end users have the skills and tools to access, analyze, report on, and otherwise use data without IT’s involvement. With data democratization, end users are completely empowered to tell a story with data using technology. IT empowers them by providing:
- The data they need to get the job done—while making sure the appropriate controls are put in place
- Getting processes and workflows into the cloud to make it easy and fast to access data
- Ensuring applications and data sources are fully transparent, trackable, and integrated to ensure data is complete, accurate, and up to date
This wave is already well under way; IT teams readily facilitate end users getting more control over how they access, control, and use data. This was accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic when employees had to work remotely. Everyone—not just those who were already asking—needed self-service options.
This wave made sense. If those who knew what they needed from data were empowered to work directly with it, then IT could be extricated from the process because there would be no need for their involvement. And this was a good thing for IT, too; IT teams are typically already overburdened with requests, which they now have more time to address.
Technology democratization: Giving users the power to build platforms and tools (or help, at least)
Data democratization was a huge leap in pushing technology out to the business, but the next wave, which is democratization of the technology that enables users to build, is already moving fast. Users are now demanding tools, guidance, and support for building tools and platforms. They want to do more than improve the way they consume data; they want the ability to create solutions that help them do their jobs better—from gaining deeper insights to improving workflows.
Again, this makes logical sense. If user know what they want to accomplish, why are they not involved at some level in the development of the tools they need to get there? Whether they’re empowered to work alone or are invited to be part of a team, they should be involved at some level in the development of the technology they use. Their knowledge of the need and IT’s technical expertise makes this the ideal partnership.
Why IT leaders need to understand the difference
Understanding these two waves for IT leaders is essential because they’re clearly in the driver’s seat when it comes to allowing, enabling, encouraging, and making it safe for democratization to occur. They need to understand the benefits, the potential pitfalls, and the methods around democratization at both levels, not only to ensure they are technically and logistically ready to be responsible stewards, but to ensure they themselves feel comfortable with and fully embrace it. It is, after all, a bit of a leap for many to let go of the reigns to people who haven’t historically been entrusted to putting their hands on technology at that level—and understandable that there might be some hesitation, particularly in financial services.
Letting and even encouraging end users to be involved at some level in the solutioning process benefits both them and IT. They get what they need along with a sense of accomplishment and expanding of their skills and knowledge, while you find valuable resources in unexpected places–resources that are excited about working together to find better ways to get things done.
Read this success story
About a global private equity firm that modernized investor relations with HSO and has kept the transformation going on their own
With $70B+ in assets across credit, private equity, and real estate strategies, this financial services firm is successful already, but they were doing things the hard way. HSO used the Microsoft Power Platform, a suite of tools designed for anyone–regardless of programming or technical expertise–to create apps and workflows very quickly, to modernize processes that were manual and antiquated, including how investor relations handled billions of dollars’ worth of requests.
These improvements democratized data by enabling the investor relations team to gain a mastery of their data, but it also launched the firm into full democratization of technology. After witnessing what was possible using the Power Platform and the advantages of having employee involvement in the solutioning process, the firm is now approaching all technical challenges in this way.