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The Need for Disciplined Data Management is on the Increase

Over recent years, we have noticed an increased focus by South African Corporates on Data Management, a term which was traditionally associated with primarily data storage and lifecycle management. However, many organisations have aligned with international trends and begun initiatives to help bring together areas such as Business Intelligence (BI), Data Quality, Master Data, Content Management, Data Governance, and Data Security under a holistic Data Management Strategy.

This is a refreshing and long overdue approach because up until now it has been surprising to see how little attention has been given to some of these areas, and how many businesses had the expectation that BI alone would solve all their data problems. Some companies have realised that data, and in particular Master Data, is a far more fundamental business asset that requires formal disciplines for its management beyond just storage infrastructure. With a proper Data Management Strategy, the entire business - not just BI - benefits from greater efficiencies, increased opportunities and better compliance to, for example, King 3 and POPI (or PPI).

The approaches been taken by different organisations vary: whilst there is no right or wrong approach, we note that many initiatives, unsurprisingly, stem out of the BI and Data Warehousing area, where much of the pain of data problems typically manifests. What has been seen is that those departments tasked with BI delivery are now also driving the need for the likes of Data Quality, Data Governance and Master Data Management (MDM) programmes in their organisations. Whilst this approach can have the danger of been mainly IT driven with little or no business support, it is better than no approach at all. However, in their quest for quality data, it is evident that leading organisations manage to secure not only business support but, critically, real business involvement, and the entire organisation participates in developing a Data Management Strategy, encompassing both the operational and analytical aspects of information.

What has also helped is the emergence of solid industry frameworks from organisations such as the Data Management Association (DAMA). DAMA has developed extremely useful and comprehensive data management guidelines delivered through vehicles such as the DAMA Data Management Body of Knowledge (DMBOK). These frameworks are an excellent starting point for what is in reality a broad and complex area, and have the added advantage of been internationally accepted as vendor-neutral best practices.

With the exponential increase in the collection, manipulation and analysis of information by large organisations, it is imperative to not only bring data under control, but to ensure that it supports the needs of the growing business. This against a background of increased competitiveness, rapid agility, demands for vastly improved customer experiences and rigid compliance requirements. Data that exhibits data quality problems is indicative of an asset that is out of control, with all the associated risks, whether or not the data quality problems are correlated to business impacts!

South African companies that recognise this and start doing something about it via a formal Data Management Strategy will reap the rewards in years to come, as the laggards continue to incur the mounting costs of reworked transactions, poor customer experiences, unidentified opportunities, incorrect reporting and penalties for non-compliance.

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