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Intelligent data management is key to any digital business

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As businesses become more data-driven, with more data available than ever before, a focus on data management naturally becomes more important.

The ability to manage business data intelligently starts by focusing on making the data useful. In other words, data services should be designed around the data (what it is, how it arrives and where it is stored) to enable insights to be derived from the data, and to support business processes.

The ongoing open source revolution and cloud boom has enabled a plethora of technical capabilities, quicker than ever. However, a challenging economy and the reality of a skills shortage mean effort must still be focused on key business drivers.

To intelligently manage data, a business should have an effective data strategy in place, which aligns with the business strategy.

Management aspects such as data governance, data architecture, master data management, data quality and so on, follow naturally once the data strategy is known. From the data strategy come the principles and standards which then guide data management decisions.

By way of example, consider one data strategy goal: to provide ‘a single view of the customer’.

Starting with the basics, a business needs to get the right data to the right place. The ‘right place’ is one (or usually more) subject matter experts or systems which can action the data insights. This speaks to data visibility and communication as a function of data management. The business must understand what it is looking at in order to make decisions.

Data management cannot be solely about getting ‘all the things in one place’ but rather about how to get value from all the things.

An enterprise data model should be built to provide communication around the data meaning. Data marts could provide analytics stores, which can suffice for the ‘single version of the truth’. Note that the business doesn’t necessarily need one system to house the data, or just one copy of the data; rather, it might want batch and real-time components, or a variety of data formats, which means it may need several capabilities. A data model should be established and implemented, so that the ‘single view’ can be produced from its constituents.

Once the business has a data model which provides communication around the data, a good data management strategy would consider the protection of the data. Non-functional aspects such as security (access control in particular), backups and replication (availability), and reliability of data services to consumers, need to be considered here.

Since these are based on a consistent data strategy, the business would be able to implement patterns which comply to the strategy and can be re-used. Re-use encourages automation for deployment and management of these patterns in future, further accelerating value extraction from the data pipelines.

Businesses must avoid falling for the latest hype cycle based on isolated industry success stories. Data lakes, artificial intelligence, cloud, real-time streaming, machine learning, etc, are tools which enable effective, or ineffective, data management. The difference being only the value gained from the data insights upon application of the tools.

Take the data lake concept as an example, being a central data store for consumers to access any and all raw data. This alone cannot enable insights and is at risk of becoming a petabyte-sized data swamp.

Data management cannot be solely about getting ‘all the things in one place’ but rather about how to get value from all the things. A business needs to consider data arrival, storage and usability of the data lake, to realise this value. Once the data services estate matures, the business may want to consider data virtualisation; especially SQL-based as SQL becomes more ubiquitous.

Intelligent data management is especially crucial if the business plans to give users unlimited scalability at their fingertips; eg, with cloud services. Scalability cannot always compensate for poor design, at least on a basis of cost-effectiveness.

A data dictionary, subject marts and effective tooling can help to intelligently manage data and provide structure and ease of use. By streamlining the process to access, utilise and trust data, effective data management then becomes a self-fulfilling paradigm as the barriers to use and maintain the data are broken down.

Data quality and metadata tooling are ultimately only as effective as the subject matter experts and systems that can use them for action. Intelligent data management is about making it easy to use these tools. Consider starting with quality and metadata basics, and work from there rather than starting with larger frameworks with a less transparent path to value.

Finally, adding to the data estate should be a collaborative process where users are encouraged and enabled to re-use data and contribute back. This speaks not only to data management but also to having tools that enable collaboration; however, this is a topic on its own.

Suffice to say, intelligent data management has several focus areas. Ultimately, it is about collating, storing, maintaining, availing, automating and presenting data, in an intelligent manner, to enable business decision-making.

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DA national leaders deploy members to monitor troubled Tshwane caucus, council

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The DA’s leadership has moved to stabilise its fractured caucus in the City of Tshwane, effectively placing Mayor Stevens Mokgalapa’s municipality under party administration.

This is according to party insiders. News24 spoke to at least four well-placed sources at both national and local government level in the DA, with some saying there was no other way to fix the mess that’s been created in the capital city, but for national leaders to step in.

Over the weekend, DA leader Mmusi Maimane admitted, when asked by News24 about the state of the City’s leadership, that decisions had been taken to get more “involved” in both the work of the municipality and the party’s caucus.

“I made no apologies about the fact that we are going to take a strong stance there. We have to,” said Maimane.

While he highlighted the challenges the DA government inherited when it took over control of the City from the ANC, which had registered a disappointing showing at the polls following its own internal squabbles, Maimane said there was a need to turn the City around and make sure it delivered services to the people of Tshwane.

“So certainly, it’s a capital city and we are working hard, and I pride myself that, as the DA, we are going to turn that municipality around and do the work that needs to be done,” he said.

The DA-run municipality has been plagued by its own troubles, chiefly the GladAfrica tender scandal and the handling of city manager Moeketsi Mosola’s battle with the council.

James Selfe, who is currently moving into a new role dealing with local governments, flew to Gauteng from Cape Town earlier this month to discuss how the municipality could resolve a dispute with striking workers over the implementation of wage increases.

READ: DA ‘not at all happy’ about payment agreement with Tshwane striking municipal workers – report

When former mayor Solly Msimanga stepped down earlier this year it was expected that his successor Mokgalapa would stabilise the region and resolve the impasse with Mosola.

Insiders have told News24 that the situation has worsened, with Mokgalapa merely rewarding those who were unhappy during Msimanga’s tenure.

“Now the Soshanguve people get to eat, they get the opportunities… that’s who Stevens cares about. We thought he was capable, but he really has been a let down,” said one Tshwane insider.

‘It is really difficult right now’

While Maimane and several others refuse to outright say the party had placed the Tshwane caucus under administration, one source said the national leadership was literally “breathing down their necks” and not allowing any decision to be taken without it being scrutinised and approved.

“They want to know of every step, have a say in every decision. It is really difficult right now, but I believe in the end it will be for the best,” another Tshwane source told News24.

The leader of the ANC caucus, Kgosi Maepa, has complained about the involvement of Selfe and federal chairperson Athol Trollip in Tshwane.

He told journalists that the two had come to the capital city to give instructions. Maepa claimed the DA was not happy with Mokgalapa, whom he’s dubbed “gimmicks” over growing divisions between so-called “white” and “black” caucuses.

The mayor has been accused of advancing the interests of the black caucus, which had previously been aggrieved with Msimanga.

Even City employees seem disgruntled, with a group calling themselves Concerned Employees of Tshwane writing to both President Cyril Ramaphosa and Cooperative Governance MEC Lebogang Maile, asking for them to intervene in the City.

Maile said, while the department had enough reason to place DA-run municipalities in Gauteng under administration, that was not its objective, and that they were instead prioritising working together optimally to serve their respective communities.

When Trollip was quizzed by News24 regarding the claims and concerns around the Tshwane caucus, he declined to answer, saying he would never discuss internal party issues with the media.

Maimane, in raising concerns about its Tshwane members adhering to the DA’s principles, said the party was attempting to address the challenges facing its caucus.

“When it comes to the caucus. I have deployed people there to monitor that caucus to make sure we build a united team there that will deliver in Tshwane.”

Samwu strike

Maimane complained about the recent Samwu strike, which shut down the capital city for three days, questioning how the chief of police had failed to stop an “illegal march” from going ahead.

He said this was a failure of leadership and accountability.

“More than anything, I wanted to make sure in the adjudication of certain decisions that take place in that municipality, that we always uphold the DA’s principles in that regard, [ensuring] clean government, making sure that we don’t have contracts that are not of service to the people, making sure of the competence of the leadership.”

Mokgalapa’s office said it was not aware of moves by national leaders to get more involved in monitoring the performance of the municipality. Selfe, who’s recently been given the task of running the party’s governance unit, admitted to “closely monitoring” work being done under Mokgalapa’s watch, but said this was not “unique” to Tshwane.

He said the DA had appointed top leaders to closely monitor work across all the country’s metros.

“This is a programme implemented in order to clearly ascertain the state of affairs in those councils and the communities they serve; the intervention is to better prepare ourselves ahead of the 2021 elections,” said Selfe in an email response to News24.

Selfe also said the DA regularly met with its members who held elected office to ensure they were “on top of all issues” and able to “advise on any appropriate action, if necessary”.

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Jumia Finds Wrongdoing in Nigeria Sales Force as Loss W…

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While the Berlin-based company Jumia Technologies AG is taking measures to cut out instances of wrongdong, the findings backed up warnings made by short-sellers Citron in a report three months ago, which brought an abrupt end to a share-price rally following Jumia’s initial public offering in New York the previous month.

Jumia found cases where “improper orders were placed and subsequently cancelled,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday. These included deals made through a team of independent Nigerian sales consultants called J-Force. The transactions in question amounted to 2% of 2018 gross merchandise volume — a term for sales used in online retailing — rising to 4% in the first quarter of 2019.

J-Force allows the company to interact directly with customers but “requires constant improvement,” Jumia co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Sacha Poignonnec said in a conference call.

The retailer — sometimes dubbed Africa’s Amazon — has operations in 14 countries and is seeking to take advantage of rising incomes and better technology on the continent.

‘Unlimited Income’

In advertising for candidates to join J-Force, Jumia promises the opportunity to “earn unlimited income” while having “complete freedom and control over your activities.” Nigeria is ranked 144th on a list of 180 countries on the Corruption Perceptions Index, compiled by Transparency International.

The report of dubious sales practices comes after Citron called Jumia “an obvious fraud,” wiping out early gains from the IPO. The stock shed another 14% to $12.73 as of 12:39 p.m. in New York, dropping below the $14.50 listing price.

Jumia said second-quarter operating losses widened by 60% to 66.7 million euros ($74 million), mainly due to an increase in costs related to the vesting of share options following the IPO. The company’s target for profitability is late 2022, and the cash raised through the listing should take Jumia “close” to that, Poignonnec said.

The “business model has severe vulnerabilities,” Tellimer Markets Inc analysts led by Nirgunan Tiruchelvam said in a note following the results. “The business is intensely cashflow negative and we have concerns about its viability.”

In other news…

South Africa is in a very real battle. A political fight where terms such as truth and democracy can seem more of a suggestion as opposed to a necessity.

On one side of the battle are those openly willing to undermine the sovereignty of a democratic society, completely disregarding the weight and power of the oaths declared when they took office. If their mission was to decrease society’s trust in government – mission accomplished.

And on the other side are those who believe in the ethos of a country whose constitution was once declared the most progressive in the world. The hope that truth, justice and accountability in politics, business and society is not simply fairy tale dust sprinkled in great electoral speeches; but rather a cause that needs to be intentionally acted upon every day.

However, it would be an offensive oversight not to acknowledge that right there on the front lines, alongside whistleblowers and civil society, stand the journalists. Armed with only their determination to inform society and defend the truth, caught in the crossfire of shots fired from both sides.

If you believe in supporting the cause and the work of Daily Maverick then take your position on the battleground and sign up to Maverick Insider today.

For whatever amount you choose, you can support Daily Maverick and it only takes a minute.

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Splunk To Buy Cloud-Monitoring Software Maker SignalFx For $1.05 Billion

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Splunk Inc. reached a $1.05 billion deal to buy cloud-monitoring startup SignalFx Inc., a deal that would strengthen the cybersecurity and data-analytics firm’s offerings in the fast-growing cloud-computing sector. The Wall Street Journal reports: Founded in 2004, Splunk — a play on the word “spelunking” — collects and analyzes data to help companies identify patterns, like customers’ beverage preferences, and detect anomalies, say fraud or a cyberattack. Splunk officials told analysts that Splunk has some customer overlap with San Mateo, Calif.-based SignalFx and that the target company’s software represents a “top tier asset to the things that matter” to clients. Closely held SignalFx was valued at nearly $500 million after a $75 million funding round that closed in May, according to a Dow Jones VentureSource estimate.

The cash-and-stock deal is expected to close in the second half of Splunk’s fiscal year, which ends Jan. 31. San Francisco-based Splunk, which went public in 2012 and carries a nearly $1.5 billion deficit, said it would be able to absorb the added operating costs from the deal. Splunk has been increasing its cloud business, which accounted for 25% of revenues in the July quarter and is expected to represent half of operations over the next few years, company officials said.

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