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.
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.
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.
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
Online retail gets real
After decades of experience in selling online, retailers still seek out the secret of reaching the digital consumer, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
It’s been 23 years since the first pizza and the first bunch of flowers was sold online. One would think, after all this time, that retailers would know exactly what works, and exactly how the digital consumer thinks.
Yet, in shopping-mad South Africa, only 4% of adults regularly shop online. One could blame high data costs, low levels of tech-savviness, or lack of trust. However, that doesn’t explain why a population where more than a quarter of people have a debit or credit card and almost 40% of people use the Internet is staying away.
The new Online Retail in South Africa 2019 study, conducted by World Wide Worx with the support of Visa and Platinum Seed, reveals that growth is in fact healthy, but is still coming off a low base. This year, the total sale of retail products online is expected to pass the R14-billion mark, making up 1.4% of total retail.
This figure represents 25% growth over 2017, and comes after the same rate of growth was seen in 2017. At this rate, it is clear that online retail is going mainstream, driven by aggressive marketing, and new shopping channels like mobile shopping.
But it is equally clear that not all retailers are getting it right. According to the study, the unwillingness of business to reinvest revenue in developing their online presence is one of the main barriers to long-term success. Only one in five companies surveyed invested more than 20% of their online turnover back into their online store. Over half invested less than 10% back.
On the surface, the industry looks healthy, as a surprisingly high 71% of online retailers surveyed say they are profitable. But this brings to mind the early days of Amazon.com, in 1996, when founder Jeff Bezos was asked when it would become profitable.
He declared that it would not be profitable for at least another five years. And if it did, he said, it would be in big trouble. He meant that it was so important for long-term sustainability that Amazon reinvest all its revenues in customer systems, that it could not afford to look for short-term profits.
According to the South African study, the single most critical factor in the success of online retail activities is customer service. A vast majority, 98% of respondents, regarded it as important. This positions customer service as the very heart of online retail. For Amazon, investment back into systems that would streamline customer service became the key to the world’s digital wallets.
In South Africa online still make up a small proportion of overall retail, but for the first time we see the promise of a broader range of businesses in terms of category, size, turnover and employee numbers. This is a sign that our local market is beginning to mature.
Clothing and apparel is the fastest growing sector, but is also the sector with the highest turnover of businesses. It illustrates the dangers of a low barrier to entry: the survival rate of online stores in this sector is probably directly opposite to the ease of setting up an online apparel store.
A fast-growing category that was fairly low on the agenda in the past, alcohol, tobacco and vaping, has benefited from the increased online supply of vapes, juices and accessories. It also suggests that smoking bans, and the change in the legal status of marijuana during the survey, may have boosted demand.
In the coming weeks, we can expect online retail to fall under the spotlight as never before. Black Friday, a shopping tradition imported “wholesale” from the United States, is expected to become the biggest online shopping day of the year in South Africa, as it is in the USA.
Initially, it was just a gimmick in South Africa, attempting to cash in on what was a purely American tradition of insane sales on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, which occurs on the third Thursday of November every year. It is followed by Cyber Monday, making the entire weekend one of major promotions and great bargains.
It has grown every year in South Africa since its first introduction about six years ago, and last year it broke into the mainstream, with numerous high profile retailers embracing it, and many consumers experiencing it for the first time.
It is now positioned as the prime bargain day of the year for consumers, and many wait in anticipation for it, as they do in the USA. Along with Cyber Monday, it provides an excuse for retailers to go all out in their marketing, and for consumers to storm the display shelves or web pages. South African shoppers, clearly, are easily enticed by bargains.
Word of mouth around Black Friday has also grown massively in the past two years, driven by both media and shoppers who have found ridiculous bargains. As news spreads that the most ridiculous of the bargains are to be had online, even those who were reticent of digital shopping will be tempted to convert.
The Online Retail in SA 2019 report has shown over the years that, as people become more experienced in using the Internet, their propensity to shop online increases. This is part of the World Wide Worx model known as the Digital Participation Curve. The key missing factor in the Curve is that most retailers do not know how to convert that propensity into actual online shopping behaviour. Black Friday will be one of the keys to conversion.
Carry on reading to find out about the online retailers of the year.
Reliable satellite Internet?
MzansiSat, a satellite-Internet business, aims to beam Internet connections to places in South Africa which don’t have access to cabled and mobile network infrastructure, writes BRYAN TURNER.
Stellenbosch-based MzansiSat promises to provide cheap wholesale Internet to Internet Service Providers for as little as R25 per Gigabyte. Providers who offer more expensive Internet services could benefit greatly from partnering with MzansiSat, says the company.
“Using MzansiSat, we hope that we can carry over cost-savings benefits to the consumer,” says Victor Stephanopoli, MzansiSat chief operating officer.
The company, which has been spun off from StellSat, has been looking to increase its investor portfolio while it waits for spectrum approval. The additional investment will allow MzansiSat’s satellite to operate in more regions across Africa.
The MzansiSat satellite is being built by Thales Alenia Space, a French company which is also acting as technical partner to MzansiSat. In addition to building the satellite, Thales Alenia Space will also be assisting MzansiSat in coordinating the launch. The company intends to launch the satellite into the 56°E orbital slot in a geostationary orbit, which enables communication almost anywhere in Africa. The launch is expected to happen in 2022.
The satellite will have 76 transponders, 48 of which will be Ku-band and 28 C-band. Ku-band is all about high-speed performance, while C-band deals with weather-resistance. The design intention is for customers of MzansiSat to choose between very cheap, reliable data and very fast, power-efficient data.
C-band is an older technology, which makes bandwidth cheaper and almost never affected by rain but requires bigger dishes and slower bandwidth compared to Ku-band connections. On the other hand, Ku-band is faster, experiences less microwave interference, and requires less power to run – but is less reliable with bad weather conditions.
MzansiSat’s potential military applications are significant, due to the nature of the military being mobile and possibly in remote areas without connectivity. Connectivity everywhere would be potentially be life-saving.
Consumers in remote areas will benefit, even though satellite is higher in latency than fibre and LTE connections. While this level of latency is high (a fifth of a second in theory), satellite connections are still adequate for browsing the Internet and watching online content.
The Internet of Things (IoT) may see the benefits of satellite Internet before consumers do. The applications of IoT in agriculture are vast, from hydration sensors to soil nutrient testers, and can be realised with an Internet connection which is available in a remote area.
Stephanopoli says that e-learning in remote areas can also benefit from MzansiSat’s presence, as many school resources are becoming readily available online.
“Through our network, the learning experience can be beamed into classrooms across the country to substitute or complement local resources within the South African schooling system.”