Any company can be a data company with low-code/no-code governance tools

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We’ve all heard the saying that “every business is a software company” over the years. But recently there’s a new saying that goes, “Every business is a cloud and data company.” Makes sense: data is fueling an explosion of insights, innovation and cloud adoption, and cloud spending is expected to exceed $1.3 trillion by 2025. As cloud is now the default expectation for doing business, the rules have changed — and businesses have to deal with new regulatory hurdles and barriers to innovation. Fortunately, we know how to move forward quickly based on what worked in the past: low-code/no-code solutions.

Where did we start

In the past, to succeed as software companies, companies had to hire enough people to write code, limiting their growth. This skills gap initially forced companies to hire expensive consultants, tell them where technology could improve service or increase sales, map out the software needed, and then deliver it—certainly not a cheap or fast process.

Companies eventually overcame this hurdle with low-code and no-code tools — software that could write the code for users, democratizing operations previously performed only by IT professionals. Building websites, for example, required HTML and Java coding experience, but over the past five years, low- and no-code tools have helped end users speed up that process and improve operations on the business side. When typos and coding errors don’t have to be disasters that IT professionals have to spend all their time on, and those tools are in the hands of all users across the company, working with data in the cloud becomes much easier and more efficient.

Yet these tools have typically been limited to building applications and using established processes, rather than dealing with significant threats to today’s businesses – data governance and risk.

Why data-driven progress collided with privacy regulations

Modern companies create and store huge amounts of company and customer data. They now have personal information from hundreds of millions of users and data about how, where and when they use software. Digital data about healthcare, financial information, logistics and shipping, e-commerce, security and more can be easily collected and stored.

As companies rush to leverage this resource for business, they face a new barrier: data privacy regulations. New regional laws governing the sharing of PII, PHI, and PCI data are being passed and updated at a rapid pace, with little regard for consistent global standards. These regulations, from GDPR to CCPA, include expensive penalties for data breaches or misuse — in California’s privacy law, for example, fines range from $2,500 to $7,500 per record.

For example, direct-to-consumer companies have had to adapt quite quickly to both the GDPR and the CCPA to maintain customer trust. Functional food company HumanN was concerned about GDPR compliance and other legal requirements around PII to avoid potential fines and reputational damage. And both HumanN CEO Joel Kocher and the company’s smaller data team recognized the need for a code-less solution that could deliver business value in hours or days, not months or years. They ultimately chose easy-to-deploy technology that, integrated with their cloud-based ecosystem, ensured data was assessed responsibly and access was closely monitored.

Many companies today may be early in their data governance journey, but they will soon be faced with a skills gap similar to the coding gap unless they invest in the tools that make compliance achievable, regardless of technical skill. .

No-code, low-code software enables self-service data management and faster data-driven insight

The good news is that we already know the solution: creating tools that enable non-technical users to deploy and manage a data governance solution themselves. Companies have previously adapted to digital transformation with low-code and no-code approaches. In this case, instead of applying it to software, they need to extend it to their entire cloud and governance infrastructure.

What makes this adjustment possible? Technology that works within the hybrid and multi-cloud framework and does not require any new infrastructure or code to set things up. This technology democratizes the governance process across the organization and reduces the stress of adapting to regulatory changes.

With this strategy, data engineers and administrators can leave the tedious process of setting up policy-based data controls, updating and managing them over time to non-technical teams, who handle only the most difficult tasks. No one needs to know SQL, Apache Ranger, or YAML — data management teams or other non-coders can activate their own governance policies and controls and quickly update them as needed. Not only does the process get faster, it also becomes less error-prone. Those responsible for governance can see for themselves that the policy is working correctly, and they can immediately adjust if something isn’t right — just like the marketing team can jump in to fix a typo on the website.

For HumanN, visibility in data usage underlined a previously identified problem: ambiguity caused by using the same role for multiple purposes. For example, a database superuser role was used by BI tools to extract data, sales channels to import data, and database administrators to query and make changes to the database.

So the engineers faced a serious problem: a lack of accurate analysis of data usage. By investing in low-code data controls, they gained visibility into data governance access and role sharing, and were able to create custom compliance rules to manage them.

What’s next?

With this approach, anyone across the company who wants to gain insight into sensitive and regulated data, including on the business side, can implement data controls and safeguards to use that data securely and in compliance with regulations. Code-less data management tools help companies extract value from data faster and become the “data companies” they need to be.

Companies need to look for low-code/no-code tools, create a work culture that emphasizes everyone’s responsibility for data privacy and security, and provide the tools that empower everyone to take action. We’ve tackled the coding challenge before when it came to building technology and learned how to adapt. Now we have to do the same with governance.

James Beecham is co-founder and CTO of ALTR.

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