The pros and cons of data on demand


young businesswoman considers pros and cons of data on demandBack when I was a young cub fresh out of college, I didn't fully understand the concept of enterprise data. Sure, I worked with it in my early to mid-twenties – but, compared to today, I knew nothing about the vast amounts of data that organizations generate, manage, and, more often than not, mismanage.

Based upon my role, background and knowledge, entry-level folks such as myself were generally not allowed to access enterprise data. Sure, we could run standard reports. But for anything custom, I had to generate reports requests that proper IT folks would attempt to fulfill. Back and forth we would go until, weeks later, either I gave up on the IT folks or vice-versa. Put differently, the IT-business divide was alive and well.

My how times have changed.

Today, the "business of data" in many enterprises does not resemble its counterpart from the late 1990s. To be sure, that aforementioned divide remains a chasm in many hidebound organizations. More progressive ones, however, have realized that the benefits of democratizing data (read: “data on demand”) can exceed their costs.

We live in an on-demand world. Why should data be any different?

So what are the pros and cons of granting employees access to data where and when they need it?


In no particular order, they include the following:

  • Data on demand just makes sense. No longer do employees need to visit a proper office or dial in to a network via a VPN. We live in an on-demand world. Why should data be any different?
  • Employees can act and react with far greater speed. They can seize fleeting opportunities and realize savings that would otherwise evaporate. (This sports the added benefit of creating a culture of analytics.)
  • Employees are less likely to see IT has the "information police."
  • Non-technical employees can become more familiar with – and take greater ownership over – the very data that they touch. (This can reduce or eliminate that pesky IT-business divide.)
  • Employees can drastically increase their skill sets and become more valuable to the firm.


Of course, there's no such thing as a free lunch. Costs of data on demand include the following:

  • Employees who act willy-nilly run the risk of exposing the organization to massive governance and legal risks. (Case in point: Uber's use of God view.)
  • Employees may realize that they are more valuable to the organization. Key analytics and data science skills have never been more valuable. As a result, attrition may increase.
  • Employees acting quicker are arguably more likely to make mistakes.

Simon Says

As always, the fleas come with the dog. Generally speaking, I believe that the benefits of data on demand far exceed their costs.


What say you?

Download a TDWI paper about data preparation

About Author

Phil Simon

Author, Speaker, and Professor

Phil Simon is a keynote speaker and recognized technology expert. He is the award-winning author of eight management books, most recently Analytics: The Agile Way. His ninth will be Slack For Dummies (April, 2020, Wiley) He consults organizations on matters related to strategy, data, analytics, and technology. His contributions have appeared in The Harvard Business Review, CNN, Wired, The New York Times, and many other sites. He teaches information systems and analytics at Arizona State University's W. P. Carey School of Business.

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