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When data need not intimidate

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As more data sources become available, businesses often struggle to manage them. However, proper data management starts with a solid understanding of data governance which many companies think is an intimidating task, writes ANTIONETTE VAN ZYL.

Market forces are driving data awareness as businesses realise that they can derive significant value from effectively analysing data and applying the findings to decisions and actions, and as regulators tighten rules around how data should be managed.

‘Big data’ is still used as a buzzword in business. But data has always been available – it’s just evolving as more data sources become available, such as cloud, mobile and click-stream data. And with the growth of machine-to-machine technology and the Internet of Things, even more data sources will come online soon. So how do we manage these new data types?

Proper data management starts with a solid understanding of data governance. Businesses also need strong policies that enforce rules regarding data management. Effective data governance involves people, processes and technology to ensure consistent and proper handling of data. It involves all levels of data processing, including data management, data quality, policy management, business process management and risk management.

Data should be clearly defined, secure and fit for purpose if a business wants to derive benefit from it. To achieve this level of data reliability, policies should specify how data should be captured. This quality control measure ensures that any data issues are corrected at the source and that information assets are formally managed throughout the enterprise.

Effective data governance practices require support from executive management if they are to be successful. However, many CEOs do not link data to business value, believing that data is an IT issue, while IT believes it merely supplies the data to the organisation.

Another challenge when implementing data governance strategies is that different departments within an organisation have different agendas when it comes to data. As a result, they may each have their own processes for managing data, resulting in siloed systems that don’t communicate with each other and are difficult to integrate.

There is a perception that data governance is a massive and intimidating task. Businesses know they should be doing it but they don’t know where to start. Data governance doesn’t need to be applied to the entire organisation in one fell swoop. Rather, when embarking on the data governance journey, businesses should start small – in a single department. Data governance requires change – change in mindsets and change in processes. It’s much easier to convince staff and executives of the business value of data governance if benefits can be shown in a single area and expanded from there.

Data governance framework

So where do you start? Below, I have outlined a top-down data governance framework that will assist any business in establishing a single, consistent set of policies and processes for managing data. The good news is that data governance is not a linear process – businesses can start from the top, the bottom, or somewhere in the middle. My advice is to start with those areas that are already in place and work from there.

Plan

Determine the business’ data governance readiness. Identify current high-impact projects and upcoming initiatives and link these to a strategic initiative. For example, one business strategy could be to increase customer retention numbers through a loyalty programme and setting up social platforms to engage with customers. Initiatives to achieve this could include using analytics to anticipate customer need based on behaviour trends and to tailor offers and communication to those needs.

Next, assemble a core working team that will provide oversight, manage risk and assess compliance. This group of visionaries will define the data governance charter, including the business mission, key benefits and guiding principles.

Design

Identify an initial target project, such as a customer loyalty programme. A data governance council is decided at this stage, which will serve as the main decision-making body on the project. It will also determine the decision rights, list key decisions, engage other decision-making bodies and assign accountabilities.

It’s important at this stage to refine and formalise data management – this is where IT will be roped in.

Execute

Go forth and launch your data governance process! Key to ongoing success is to continually measure and refine the process, monitor progress and report issues or risks. At this stage, data governance should be absorbed into the software development lifecycle so that it forms part of all processes going forward.

Poor data governance can cause many headaches for businesses, including poor customer service, limited upsell/cross-sell opportunities, an inefficient supply chain, an inability to automate key processes, poor operational planning and execution, and, importantly, exposure to fraud and other risk.

On the other hand, efficient data governance systems present a single platform on which all different roles and departments can be supported, allowing for the enforcement of central policies and monitoring of those policies. As a result, information is treated as a business asset and is readily available to support evidence-based decision-making – this saves time as the business knows the data can be trusted and does not need to be verified.

Ultimately, the business is able to make decisions faster, its information is consistent and aligns with values and goals, and risk management is improved – all because of collaboration and clean, valuable data.

* Antionette Van Zyl, Senior Solution Manager: Data Management at SAS

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When will we stop calling them phones?

If you don’t remember when phones were only used to talk to people, you may wonder why we still use this term for handsets, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, on the eve of the 10th birthday of the app.

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Do you remember when handsets were called phones because, well, we used them to phone people?

It took 120 years from the invention of the telephone to the use of phones to send text.

Between Alexander Graham Bell coining the term “telephone” in 1876 and Finland’s two main mobile operators allowing SMS messages between consumers in 1995, only science fiction writers and movie-makers imagined instant communication evolving much beyond voice. Even when BlackBerry shook the business world with email on a phone at the end of the last century, most consumers were adamant they would stick to voice.

It’s hard to imagine today that the smartphone as we know it has been with us for less than 10 years. Apple introduced the iPhone, the world’s first mass-market touchscreen phone, in June 2007, but it is arguable that it was the advent of the app store in July the following year that changed our relationship with phones forever.

That was the moment when the revolution in our hands truly began, when it became possible for a “phone” to carry any service that had previously existed on the World Wide Web.

Today, most activity carried out by most people on their mobile devices would probably follow the order of social media in first place – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all jostling for attention – and  instant messaging in close second, thanks to WhatsApp, Messenger, SnapChat and the like. Phone calls – using voice that is – probably don’t even take third place, but play fourth or fifth fiddle to mapping and navigation, driven by Google Maps and Waze, and transport, thanks to Uber, Taxify, and other support services in South Africa like MyCiti,  Admyt and Kaching.

Despite the high cost of data, free public Wi-Fi is also seeing an explosion in use of streaming video – whether Youtube, Netflix, Showmax, or GETblack – and streaming music, particularly with the arrival of Spotify to compete with Simfy Africa.

Who has time for phone calls?

The changing of the phone guard in South Africa was officially signaled last week with the announcement of Vodacom’s annual results. Voice revenue for the 2018 financial year ending 31 March had fallen by 4.6%, to make up 40.6% of Vodacom’s revenue. Total revenue had grown by 8.1%, which meant voice seriously underperformed the group, and had fallen by 4% as a share of revenue, from 2017’s 44.6%.

The reason? Data had not only outperformed the group, increasing revenue by 12.8%, but it had also risen from 39.7% to 42.8% of group revenue,

This means that data has not only outperformed voice for the first time – as had been predicted by World Wide Worx a year ago – but it has also become Vodacom’s biggest contributor to revenue.

That scenario is being played out across all mobile network operators. In the same way, instant messaging began destroying SMS revenues as far back as five years ago – to the extent that SMS barely gets a mention in annual reports.

Data overtaking voice revenues signals the demise of voice as the main service and key selling point of mobile network operators. It also points to mobile phones – let’s call them handsets – shifting their primary focus. Voice quality will remain important, but now more a subset of audio quality rather than of connectivity. Sound quality will become a major differentiator as these devices become primary platforms for movies and music.

Contact management, privacy and security will become critical features as the handset becomes the storage device for one’s entire personal life.

Integration with accessories like smartwatches and activity monitors, earphones and earbuds, virtual home assistants and virtual car assistants, will become central to the functionality of these devices. Why? Because the handsets will control everything else? Hardly.

More likely, these gadgets will become an extension of who we are, what we do and where we are. As a result, they must be context aware, and also context compatible. This means they must hand over appropriate functions to appropriate devices at the appropriate time. 

I need to communicate only using my earpiece? The handset must make it so. I have to use gesture control, and therefore some kind of sensor placed on my glasses, collar or wrist? The handset must instantly surrender its centrality.

There are numerous other scenarios and technology examples, many out of the pages of science fiction, that point to the changing role of the “phone”. The one thing that’s obvious is that it will be silly to call it a phone for much longer.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube
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MTN 5G test gets 520Mbps

MTN and Huawei have launched Africa’s first 5G field trial with an end-to-end Huawei 5G solution.

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The field trial demonstrated a 5G Fixed-Wireless Access (FWA) use case with Huawei’s 5G 28GHz mmWave Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) in a real-world environment in Hatfield Pretoria, South Africa. Speeds of 520Mbps downlink and 77Mbps uplink were attained throughout respectively.

“These 5G trials provide us with an opportunity to future proof our network and prepare it for the evolution of these new generation networks. We have gleaned invaluable insights about the modifications that we need to do on our core, radio and transmission network from these pilots. It is important to note that the transition to 5G is not just a flick of a switch, but it’s a roadmap that requires technical modifications and network architecture changes to ensure that we meet the standards that this technology requires. We are pleased that we are laying the groundwork that will lead to the full realisation of the boundless opportunities that are inherent in the digital world.” says Babak Fouladi, Group Chief Technology & Information Systems Officer, at MTN Group.

Giovanni Chiarelli, Chief Technology and Information Officer for MTN SA said: “Next generation services such as virtual and augmented reality, ultra-high definition video streaming, and cloud gaming require massive capacity and higher user data rates. The use of millimeter-wave spectrum bands is one of the key 5G enabling technologies to deliver the required capacity and massive data rates required for 5G’s Enhanced Mobile Broadband use cases. MTN and Huawei’s joint field trial of the first 5G mmWave Fixed-Wireless Access solution in Africa will also pave the way for a fixed-wireless access solution that is capable of replacing conventional fixed access technologies, such as fibre.”

“Huawei is continuing to invest heavily in innovative 5G technologies”, said Edward Deng, President of Wireless Network Product Line of Huawei. “5G mmWave technology can achieve unprecedented fiber-like speed for mobile broadband access. This trial has shown the capabilities of 5G technology to deliver exceptional user experience for Enhanced Mobile Broadband applications. With customer-centric innovation in mind, Huawei will continue to partner with MTN to deliver best-in-class advanced wireless solutions.”

“We are excited about the potential the technology will bring as well as the potential advancements we will see in the fields of medicine, entertainment and education. MTN has been investing heavily to further improve our network, with the recent “Best in Test” and MyBroadband best network recognition affirming this. With our focus on providing the South Africans with the best customer experience, speedy allocation of spectrum can help bring more of these technologies to our customers,” says Giovanni.

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