Africa is no stranger to the challenges of infectious diseases. Since 2015, stabilizing organizations, communities, and individuals—colloquially referred to as hawse—have addressed the likes of Bubonic Plague, Dengue Fever, Ebola, Measles, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Yellow Fever, and Zika Virus—at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives across the continent.

As COVID-19 bears down on the globe, Africa again braces for the human and economic challenges ahead. While it appears no organization, government or individual can fully anticipate and prepare for an international pandemic, the eyes of African nations have remained focused: one on the challenge; the other on the opportunity.

Born out of such calamities is a spirit of resilience—a determined, never give up attitude that is reflected in our culture and the business practices of our organizations. The Standard Bank Group Data Asset Management team embodies that resiliency. We rely on a foundation focused on data governance, technology and trust to support business continuity. This strategy, set forth by our leadership, is our steadfast approach in times of opportunity and challenge.

The opportunities and challenges of data

It is no secret that data is the transactional ingredient that touches our entire ecosystem: customers, operations, executive management, shareholders, the reserve bank, financial services board and potential investors. Without data there is no business. Without good data there is no good business. Superior data management and governance is the foremost differentiator of competitive advantage within the banking industry or any organization.

In 2020, the IBM Institute for Business Value surveyed over 13,000 CIOs across the world. The resulting study, “Seizing the Data Advantage,” reports 87 percent of CEOs regard data as “a strategic asset that can be used to support deeply nuanced, personalized experiences powered by sophisticated, intelligent operations. In other words, data powers opportunity.”

However, despite best efforts, managing and maintaining governance practices including data quality, cataloging and integration remains difficult for many organizations. In the 2020 IBM-commissioned study, “Overcome Obstacles to Get to AI at Scale,” Forrester Consulting found that 40 percent of participants considered data governance issues as a serious concern.

Additionally, 58 percent of study participants indicated that data quality issues are the number one challenge in their organization. Without the foundation of strong data quality and governance programs, an organization’s ability to support customer service interactions, operational efficiency and business intelligence are hindered—creating issues that can inhibit business innovation, revenue growth, client satisfaction and retention, and the opportunity for industry leadership.

Harnessing the power of data

Delivering a single, governed source of data, maintaining the utmost quality, ensuring data integration capabilities across systems and users, and advancing efforts through innovative technology solutions is the mission of the Data Asset Management team. As an organization supporting operations in 20 countries across the continent, our team manages an inordinate amount of data.

In 2020, our data asset management estate includes: more than 500 databases, 2,000 schemas, 250,000 tables and 8,000,000 columns of technical metadata; over 100,000 common reference data elements standardized and mapped across 16 countries and 62 systems; and 10 committed data owners supported by dedicated data stewards and 10 established Guilds with working groups.

We have developed a data governance practice, that was recently recognized by the Data Governance Professionals Organization. While honored by the finalist finish for the “2020 DGPO Best Practices Award,” industry recognition is not what drives us.

The success of our team resides in our dedication to continually improve our process, technology and skills in service to our organization. We are dedicated to industry, business and data governance education, yet we remain mindful of the importance of trusted advisors. As we sought to expand our data governance practices to the cloud, we pursued the advice and counsel of technology partners to rapidly advance our knowledge. Merging our talents with those of IBM helped us uncover new economies and efficiencies in data governance practices and principles on the cloud.

Exploring alternative resources for data asset management

Today our data asset management work is part of a larger, cross-organization approach to maximize the capabilities and efficiencies of our cloud environment. We collaborated with specialty groups across IBM to envision the best practices and solutions to meet our organization’s current and future needs.

Through our exploration of IBM DataOps methodology and use of the IBM GarageIBM Data and AI Expert Lab Services, and IBM Cloud Pak for Data, and Watson Knowledge Catalog solutions, we have evolved and strengthened our organization’s data governance capabilities and commitment to business resiliency. The relationships forged among team members during the process—founded in honesty, constructive feedback and understanding—made our team even more successful. Trust remains at the center of our decision making and project execution as our actions we focus on our mission: delivering services integral to supporting client and organization needs.

With IBM DataOps, we can quickly deliver trusted, business-ready data to data citizens, operations, applications and artificial intelligence (AI).

Keeping perspective as the landscape shifts

Africa is our home. We drive her growth. As we continue to serve our great, diverse continent in a time of an unprecedented health concerns and business disruption, we remain mindful that client needs are as vast as the landscape of our nations. I was heartened as I read a recently published report, “A CIO’s guide to extreme challenges,” which affirms our data management mission was in step with the current thinking on operational strategy.

It reminds us that “every crisis brings with it an element of the unknown. We can’t possibly plan for every contingency. But we can try … Resiliency is a mindset we need to encourage and promote. [We] have the opportunity to help keep [our] organizations together, navigate the current stresses and strains, and help employees, customers and partners come out the other side.”

We each have our own unique stories. Best practices founded on data governance, technology and trust helps you remain steadfast in times of uncertainty—allowing you to focus one eye on opportunity and the other on challenges.

Learn more about IBM’s Banking and Financial Markets solutions.


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