Africa is no stranger to the challenges of infectious diseases. Since 2015, hawse¹ 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 herself 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 the African nations 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, IBM® Institute for Business Value surveyed over 13,000 C-suite executives across the world. Its 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 reports, 40 percent of the participants report data governance issues are a serious concern. Additionally, 58 percent of its participants indicated 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 — 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 Standard Bank Data Asset Management team. As an organization supporting operations in 20 countries across the continent, our team manages a tremendous 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
  • 10 committed data owners supported by dedicated data stewards and 10 established Guilds with working group

We have developed a data governance practice 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

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 Garage®, IBM Data and AI Expert Lab Services, and IBM Cloud Pak® for Data, and IBM 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.

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 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. The report affirms our data management mission affirms our data management mission was in step with the current thinking on operational strategy:

“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 help us remain steadfast in times of uncertainty — allowing us to focus one eye on opportunity and the other on challenges.

Learn more about our Banking and Financial Markets technology.

Unify tools, processes and talent

¹ For interested readers, hawse is a colloquial term that symbolizes the force of organizations, communities and individuals that steady a country in times of adversity.

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