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Why data management matters

Data is an asset and should be treated in the same way as any other asset in a business.

This is according to Werner Swanepoel, associate director at Deloitte, who discussed the complexity of data management at the SAS Executive Forum, in Newtown, on Wednesday.

“Data management is all the things you need to do to your data asset that you are already doing to all of your other assets,” said Swanepoel. “In modern organisations, data is something that needs to be managed in order to leverage opportunity.”

According to Swanepoel, data management is relevant across myriad industries and involves establishing data standards and ways to effectively implement these standards.

"Managing data is one of the fundamental building blocks to ensure productivity," said Swanepoel, describing the South African Revenue Service as an example of where data management at its most fundamental level has worked.

During his talk at the forum, Swanepoel handed out Lego blocks to the participants and asked each group to build a house with the blocks provided. The exercise demonstrated how data is managed differently by each business and how this management produces vastly different results, some less impressive than others.

The Lego demonstration also illustrated the pitfalls of poor data, as some groups were provided with shoddy Lego blocks and thus could not produce an adequate house. “One of the key challenges in data management is poor data quality,” Swanepoel said.

Swanepoel also discussed the need to regularly take stock of what data the organisation has and where it is stored. "Data leaves an organisation easily and thus there is a lot of risk involved. Security is a must."

For Swanepoel, the cost of doing nothing in terms of data management is often greater than what it would cost to implement effective data management solutions. The total cost of poor-quality data can negatively affect revenue by as much as 20%, he noted.

Businesses must establish a data management programme and develop data management capabilities through high-impact initiatives, according to Swanepoel. Businesses should also critically assess their current data and determine the costs and risks of their management strategies and what opportunities the business could capitalise on through better data management.

In conclusion of the forum, event facilitator Aki Anastasiou echoed Swanepoel's sentiment that big data and data management is something all businesses need to be thinking about in order to be successful. “Big data is here to stay and businesses need to adapt and adopt these management strategies in order to remain competitive in this space,” Anastasiou said.


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