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I, Technologist: Democratising data & technology for all employees

15 Apr 2021

When ‘normal’ is removed from the business equation, organisations must prove they can innovate and think on their feet to move with, and get ahead of, the change.

Almost every organisation was faced with this last year, and now the world knows that change is possible.  Organisations can now use technology to try new things, change at speed, and move forward.

“We now have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to turn this moment of truth for technology into a moment of trust - embracing the power of exponential technology change to completely reimagine and rebuild the future of business and human experience.”

 According to Accenture’s Technology Trends 2021: Leaders Wanted report, there are five main trends ripe for change and innovation.  These trends are:

  • Stack strategically: IT architecture becomes a crucial differentiator for businesses competing in their industries
  • Mirrored World: Digital twins, AI, and data generate new possibilities for business and intelligence
  • I, Technologist: Automation, natural language processing, low-code and other tools are democratising data and technology
  • Anywhere, everywhere: Businesses take advantage of the rise of remote and hybrid workplaces 
  • From Me to We: A new take on partnerships and multiparty systems in the post-COVID-19 landscape.

I, Technologist is a trend that examines how some of the most powerful technologies are the ones that almost any employee can use. Take low-code, for example. Organisations don’t necessarily need coders with years of experience to build applications, instead, low-code has evolved to be so simple - even drag and drop simple.

The report discusses the case of G&J Pepsi, which created a team of seven employees with little or no software development experience. The team built eight applications without a single professional developer on its staff. The company saved US$500,000 in the first year alone.

This example highlights the possibilities of technology democratisation, and also touches on the grassroots layer that has previously been absent from enterprise innovation.

“Too often IT departments or technologists work to uncover the needs of the organisation in silos, building or buying a new tool and then rolling it out and training business units on the new technology. With technology democratisation, everyone can be an innovator. The tools of democratisation are the spark to ignite transformation, and people across the organisation will sustain it,” the report notes.

As part of the report, Accenture polled business leaders and staff from all over the world, including Australia. It seems that many employees aren’t ready to leverage the technologies provided to them.

Just 8% of Australian respondents feel ‘completely ready’ to leverage these technologies, with most (79%) feeling either mostly or moderately ready. A further 13% feel minimally ready and just 1% don’t feel ready at all.

What is holding these employees back? It could be that organisations have not properly communicated what tools are available, and how best to use them. It could also be that organisations have not invested in employees’ overall technology literacy.

Amongst Australian respondents, 63% say they plan to make a moderate investment in training employees who do not have expertise with technology democratisation tools. A further 27% plan to make a minor investment and just 10% will make a significant investment.

Some organisations (2%) even ‘strongly disagree’ that their organisation must train staff to think like technologists (to use and customise technology solutions at the individual level without highly technical skills). Most respondents (89%) agree, however.

But thinking like a technologist doesn’t just mean understanding how tools can be used, it’s also about understanding the business and technology context necessary to create the best solutions for a particular problem or need. 

“Quick training programs won’t cut it. This requires a true investment in the knowledge and thinking of your people. But done right, it will transform what they— and the business as a whole—can do,” the report notes.

Ninety percent of Australian respondents agree that technology democratisation tools will help employees to drive their organisation’s digital transformation benefits, however, 10% neither agree nor disagree.

“Successful digital transformation will be the first win for companies that get it right, but that’s just the start. With every employee empowered to contribute technological solutions to business needs, savvy enterprises will have an innovation advantage for years to come,” the report notes.

These organisations see the potential in tools such as software as a service (SaaS), secure sandbox environments, robotic process automation, and low code/no-code platforms.

These tools could provide a range of benefits, such as accelerating solution implementation and interconnectivity (59%), creating scalability and resilience (47%), capitalising on technology for any employee’s skill level (43%), and delivering more customised solutions and offerings with greater agility (38%).

When asked if Australian respondents believe that technology democratisation will need to focus on security and data governance, of which 90% agree and 10% remain neutral.

The report stresses that security and data governance are included in full-scale development projects, but they could be overlooked by employees with less technical experience. Organisations should look for solutions that build checks and reviews into democratised technologies.

How do organisations get started? First, pick an area of an enterprise that can experiment with technology democratisation. Sales development representatives could start building their own apps? Customer service agents could create their own automated workflows.

Organisations should also evaluate existing access. Some cloud providers offer low-code or robotic process automation solutions - work out how these can be leveraged to support technology democratisation.

The report states, “This is every enterprise’s opportunity to make their employees a core part of their digital transformation effort. But to do so successfully, leaders will need to extend the innovation imperative across every business unit. 

“It’s not just about giving people access to new tools; companies must actively teach their people to think like technologists. This doesn’t mean turning everyone into an engineer, but rather enabling them to solve problems with technology. By empowering everyone, those closest to a problem can be the ones to create solutions, keeping the company in lockstep with rapidly changing needs.”

Read more in Accenture’s Technology Trends 2021: Leaders Wanted report here.