As the adoption of digital technologies grew briskly over the last decade, we saw the ascendance of a variety of technology experts such as full stack developers, data scientists, solution architects, sales engineers, just to name a few. With a new decade(!) upon us, there are reasons to believe the democratization of technology in the 20s will bring a new type of yet-to-be-recognized specialist to their own period of ascendance. For now, we’ll call them Empowered Analysts. Part power user, part citizen developer, and part something not yet fully defined, Empowered Analysts combine subject matter expertise in a particular domain, a power user’s broad and intuitive understanding of technology, and a citizen developers’ motivation for creating solutions, along with a capability for seeing opportunities through a multidisciplinary lens.
Low Code Tools Powering the Empowered Analysts
A key driver for the future ascendance of these new experts is the increased availability and effectiveness of low-code software development platforms. Defined by Forrester Research in 2014, low code platforms democratize “programming” through visual creation and design tools along with configuration. At core, the visual creation tools enable some combination of either point and click design, data modeling or business logic, with some limited degree of traditional programming reserved for “last mile” or higher order functionality. Additionally, unlike the “zero code” and “case tools” from decades past, modern low code platforms are utilizing the lessons learned from those underwhelming histories and leveraging modernized and superior foundational technology and delivering a track record of success. Ideally, they leverage a robust technology stack to bring more flexibility, simplicity and better performance, with an “Under the hood” option allowing traditional expert programmers to further utilize. Moreover, increased investment to startup software firms and global giants like Microsoft and Salesforce is evidence that low-code is here to stay and grow.
Not Your Papa’s Power Users
Just as low code platforms of today are a big change from their ancestral zero-code platforms of the past, today’s Empowered Analysts are not like power users of the past. For starters, the ubiquity of digital technology has now created entire classes of people with an intuitive understanding of technology that did not exist in prior times. Second, there is an increasing population of knowledge workers with high analytical capability who must navigate complex and data intensive domains. For evidence, look no further than the striking revelation by The Economist magazine that Google searches for the programming language Python has now surpassed searches for the celebrity Kim Kardashian. Beyond the joyous news that “there is hope for humanity!”, the increasing popularity of Python indicates a widespread appetite for analytical methods and tools. Now, a skeptic might say “but if they are programming in Python, wouldn’t that by indicative of a bigger population of traditional developers and data scientists instead?”. Yes, but only to a point. The Economist’s analysis showed that a significant portion of the increased Python interest was being driven by non-programmers in analytically intensive roles. They are, in fact, a type of empowered analyst, or empowered data analyst, to be more precise, even if they aren’t recognized as such.
It’s All About the Domain
Much of the consensus messaging around low code platforms centers around efficiency gains and / or cost reduction in developer-constrained environments. While this is certainly true and probably the lowest hanging fruit when trying to spur initial adoption, my hypothesis is that this consensus significantly undervalues the other side of the ledger; The value and opportunity side. What makes the case of the Empowered Analyst so compelling is the contextual and domain knowledge they bring to the table. In a time of increasing complexity, as the 4th Industrial Revolution enters its next growth stage and emerging technologies such as Blockchain, AI and IoT see widespread adoption across domains, domain knowledge itself may become a critical success factor, far beyond what we’ve seen in previous periods. While this may be somewhat counterintuitive, it’s a credible hypothesis when considering that if technology is easily available, successful digital transformations will be driven by those who can fully democratize the adoption process for the given contextual domain, which is where the Empowered Analyst - armed with a low code platform - is at their strongest. Finally, though the spike in interest for Python is indicative of a greater appetite from an increasing supply of analytically rigorous domain experts, it’s also a likely demand signal for domain specific and analytically rigorous needs to which this constituency is responding. The value and opportunity side of the ledger is pulling them.
With all that said, we will have much more to say on these fronts in the weeks and months ahead. The term “Empowered Analyst” itself may evolve. So please be on the lookout, and as always, don’t be shy to reach out!
Welcome to the new decade!