Growing up in Austin, I’ve been steeped in technology from the start – we were either talking about tech, music, or BBQ basically (or the Texas Longhorn football team when there was something good to talk about). And one of the things I heard was that “every company is a software company.” It apparently originated in Watts S. Humphrey’s book, Winning with Software: An Executive Strategy, but was repeated in 2015 by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. The idea was really simple: use software to spend less money and/or make more money. Companies wanted to find the most cost-effective source materials, track orders more efficiently, or use the web to reach more customers to increase sales.
Today we’re hearing a new mantra: every company is supposed to be a “data company”. But this is a more difficult transition that requires we overcome new regulatory roadblocks. Luckily, we have a winning strategy from the past to guide us.
The path to becoming a “software company”
There weren’t really any external barriers to becoming “software companies.” Companies just had to hire people who could create software, and they were off and running. The only real limit was knowledge about what software could do and the number of people available who could write the code. Some industries including financial, healthcare and tech were well ahead of this technology curve. But other industries like consumer goods or manufacturing had to catch up. This created a “skills gap” that initially forced companies to hire expensive consultants to come in, evaluate the business, tell them where technology could improve service or increase sales, scope the technology needed, and then deliver it. This might help a company make more money in the long run or increase efficiencies in certain areas, but it certainly wasn’t quick or cheap.
Companies eventually overcame this hurdle with the advent of low-code or no-code tools — basically software that could do the code writing for users. WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) tools like WIX or Squarespace for websites are one example. Before these self-service tools, company websites were owned and managed by the IT group because they required server set up and Java and HTML code to create and manage. Once these easy-to-use tools rolled out, employees across the enterprise gained the power that only coders and developers had before. The people who own making that part of the business more modern could do it themselves with these tools, creating an inflection point in technology adoption. The marketing team could now manage their own website, and a typo on the home page no longer had to be a major crisis.
Privacy regulations create a headwind on the way to optimizing and monetizing data
The next generation of this idea is that “every company is a data company” — it’s the latest strategy for companies to make more money or save more money. It makes sense — after companies developed and rolled out all that software, they started ingesting and generating a ton of data about the business and their customers. Companies now have personal information on millions of users, data on how those users use their software, where, when and how. Software also collected digital healthcare data, financial data, purchasing data, logistics data, mobile data, Internet of Things data. Just about everything that exists today – person or object – could have data associated with it that is collected and stored.
While companies are racing to optimize and monetize this amazing resource with technology to uncover insights and share those across the business, they face a new headwind they didn’t in the transition to becoming a software company: data privacy regulations. There were no regulations around writing code, but seemingly every month more and more laws come out directing how PII, PHI, and PCI data can be stored and shared. The E.U.’s GDPR data privacy law went into effect in 2018, California’s CCPA in 2020 and, this year, Virginia and Colorado passed regulations that protect consumer privacy. These regulations come with steep penalties for data leaks or misuse—California’s privacy act fines, for example, can range from $2,500 to $7,500 per record.
No-code, low-code software makes data governance self-service and turns a headwind into a tailwind
Overcoming this headwind means putting something in place to comply with these regulations. Like the industries that started behind in the transition to becoming a software company, many companies today may be early in their journey to data governance – according to TDWI research just 25% have a data governance program and 44% are only in the design phase. The rest aren’t even thinking about it yet. And they face a similar skills gap. Several of today’s governance technologies are based on legacy infrastructure that not only involve big investments in time, money, and human resources to implement, but also require expensive developers to set up and maintain. Because, guess what, just like the early days of software, they need people who can code!
The good news is that we already know the solution to that challenge: create tools that allow non-coders to rollout and manage the data governance solution themselves. This is where ALTR is ahead of the curve. Our cloud-based data control and protection platform requires no code to set up or maintain. Any user can easily automate policy enforcement with a few clicks in the ALTR interface, immediately see how sensitive data is being consumed, and document that access and usage to comply with all relevant privacy regulations. No one needs to know SQL, Apache Ranger, YAML or any other code – the activation of governance policies and controls can be handed off to the data governance teams or any other non-coders to implement and manage. Not only does the process become faster, it becomes less error prone. Governance teams can see that the policies are working correctly with their own eyes, and they can adjust immediately if there’s something off – just like a marketing team can fix a typo on their website.
By delivering data control and protection solutions that anyone can use, we’re allowing data governance to be self-service and enabling companies to utilize sensitive data because anyone can implement the necessary controls and protections.
And now with our ALTR Free (forever) plan, we’re truly democratizing data governance: we’re removing all the skills, expense or resource roadblocks standing in the way, so that everyone can control and protect data their data easily, swiftly and freely. Companies can turn the headwind into a tailwind to more quickly get more value out of data and become the “data companies” they need to be.