Employees will handle tasks that IT used to, and IT will become more distributed, strategic and essential to all business processes, writes Frank Petersmark.
For better or worse, the democratization of technology across the world continues to expand. As with almost all past major technological trends and advances, this democratization trend isn’t waiting for our much less nimble human systems – social, political, cultural, economic, etc. – to figure out how to respond to the changes wrought by it. Technology democratization is now, and will continue to be, one of the driving forces behind the digitalization of almost everything in the twenty-first century. In fact, an argument can be made that this is already the digital century from a technological standpoint, and that it will take a good part of the rest of the century for the aforementioned human systems to understand, react, possibly resist, and eventually embrace what already has happened.
From Function to Core Process
None of this should come as a surprise to anybody, but of course it does, and it will, to almost everybody. Technology democratization and the digitalization it drives has already changed things in a profound way and there really is no turning back. For example, just a couple of years ago remote working was the exception, but it is now the rule as a result of the pandemic. Being able to work remotely meant that employees had to have access to new and technically complex networking and meeting software, and that it had to be easy for people to use and for IT and vendors to support and manage. However, thanks to the rise of Zoom and other such meeting platforms during the pandemic, none of that is the case anymore.
Adopting that kind of software – software that in most cases was not on the IT department’s priority list – meant that this completely democratized software became central to operating almost any business, quite literally overnight. And by extension, that quickly moved IT into the most strategic role in many companies. On one day, IT was a siloed function supporting business processing platforms, and on the next, IT was mission-critical to keeping the business running.
It also meant that technology – and by extension, the IT department – became further democratized, not as a result of an intentional strategy, but rather the very nature of the technology used to keep organizations connected. Employees became their own meeting platform experts, upgrading their tech skills and by default taking on some of the work that their IT departments used to do for them.
By Frank Petersmark
Another key implication of the general democratization of technology is that centralized IT is essentially dead as a functional model. Of course, many companies have not realized this yet, and that’s understandable given that the centralized IT functional model has been part of most organizational charts for the past fifty years. That has changed, though, and it’s up to IT and executive leadership to codify the transition.
What might that transition look like? In short, IT will become the democratization enabler in most organizations, reversing decades of the old IT attitude of holding the technology keys with a vice-like grip. The post-democratization IT function will be all about implementing automated tools and platforms that employees in hybrid offices will use – and improve upon – thereby inheriting what were formerly the IT department’s more mundane tasks. It will also evolve into the strategic enabler of AI-based platforms, processes, and solutions that drive advanced data analytics, cognitive analysis, organizational decision-making, and transformative digitalization. IT becomes digitized and distributed, and absolutely essential to the business processes of any organization.
Technology is the Business
Technology democratization has already impacted every aspect of every organization. In that context, the technology that enables the future of business processing becomes indistinguishable from the business itself. Technology is the business in a very real and strategic sense, insomuch as the business cannot exist without it. Board directors and company executives will create and implement business strategies based upon their technology capabilities.
Companies that master this approach will have significant competitive advantages. Continued democratization and digitalization will introduce new operational models that organizations will use to quickly adjust to marketplace challenges and opportunities. Current trends like advanced data analytics, customer centricity and self-service, mobile platforms, and hybrid workplaces will all be accelerated by democratization, making those companies that embrace it more flexible, responsive, resilient, and thus more profitable.
None of this will happen overnight, however. Much like the old joke about the two friends chased by a bear – “I don’t need to run faster than the bear…I just need to run faster than you” – organizations will get to this future that is already here at different speeds. The quicker a company gets there, the better it will be positioned to take advantage of what democratization and digitalization has to offer. And the key to avoiding the bear in this new future will be democratized IT.