The Difference Between Democratization of Data and Democratization of Technology and Why It Matters

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The manner in which businesses see and use technology is constantly changing. The Role of IT in 2022: Embrace Democratization of Technology, is a recent blog where we discussed this concept around users demanding greater management over the technology they use and what that means to IT in meeting those demands and encouraging those who might not yet be ready to take on that role. In this blog post, we break the concept down into two distinct movements: data democratization and technology democratization.

More user control over the data they use, or data democratization

Data democratization has been around for a while now, but we’ll clarify so it can be seen as part of the bigger picture. It can be viewed as a subset of technology democratization, focusing expressly on data. Data democratization is the idea of making sure end users have the skills and tools to access, analyze, report on, and use data without IT’s involvement. With data democratization, end users are enabled to tell a story with data using technology. IT enables them by :

  • Providing the data they need to get the job done—while ensuring appropriate controls are in place
  • Getting processes and workflows into the cloud to make accessing data easy and fast
  • Making sure applications and data sources are fully transparent, trackable, and integrated to guarantee data is complete, accurate, current

This movement is well under way; IT teams eagerly facilitate end users gaining more control over how they access, control, and use data. This was hastened during the COVID-19 pandemic when employees were required to work remotely. Everyone, along with those who were asking, needed self-service options.

This movement made sense. If those who knew what they required from data were enabled to work directly with it, then IT could be removed from the process because their involvement would not be needed. This was a good thing for IT, too. IT teams are usually already overburdened with requests. Now they have more time to address those requests.

Giving users the power to build platforms and tools (or help, at least) or technology democratization

Data democratization was a big step in pushing technology out to the business, but the next movement, which is democratization of the technology that empowers users to build, is already moving at high-speed. Now, users are demanding tools, guidance, and support for building tools and platforms. They want to do more than enrich the way they utilize data; they want the power to develop solutions that help them do their jobs better—from achieving deeper insights to advancing workflows.

Again, this makes perfect sense. If users know what they want to achieve, why are they not part of the development of the tools they need to get there? Whether they’re encouraged to work alone or are asked to be part of a team, they should be involved  in the development of the technology they use. Their knowledge of the demand and IT’s technical expertise makes this the ultimate partnership.

IT leaders need to understand the difference

Understanding these two movements for IT leaders is critical because they’re in charge when it comes to permitting, enabling, encouraging, and making it safe for democratization to happen. They must understand the benefits,  potential downsides, and the methods around democratization at both levels. They must ensure they are technically and logistically ready to be responsible agents, and ensure they themselves are comfortable with and wholly embrace it. It’s a bit of a leap for many to relinquish the reigns to people who haven’t historically been allowed to put their hands on technology at that level. It’s understandable that there might be some reluctance, especially in financial services.

Allowing and even urging end users to be involved at some level in the solutioning process is a benefit to them and IT. They obtain what they need in addition to a sense of accomplishment and developing their skills and knowledge.  You can find valuable resources in unexpected places.

Read this success story about a global private equity firm that transformed investor relations with HSO and has continued the transformation on their own

With $70B+ in assets among credit, private equity, and real estate strategies, this financial services firm is already successful...but they were going about it the hard way. HSO used the Microsoft Power Platform , a suite of tools designed for anyone–irrespective of programming or technical expertise–to create apps and workflows quickly, to update processes that were antiquated, including how investor relations handled billions of dollars’ worth of requests.

These enhancements democratized data by allowing the investor relations team to gain command of their data, but it also propelled the firm into full democratization of technology. After observing what was achievable using the Power Platform and the benefits of having employee participation in the solutioning process, the firm is now managing all technical challenges in this way. Read the entire story of this transformation.

Want to know more? Contact us to discuss how the HSO financial services team can assist you as you lead your firm during the democratization process.

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