Pathways International has partnered with Lisbon-based Big Data guru Jose Almeida to deliver an end-to-end approach to the digital transformation challenges in the East African market.

Pathways International, a business-focused tech company and provider of solutions to help organizations better manage their data and allow governing parties to use this data in their decision-making process, and Jose Almeida, an experienced data consultant, are targeting to offer the East African market an end-to-end approach to the digital transformation from a data-driven perspective, to enable a seamless data journey and transition.

A statement seen by Afcacia says that the purpose of this partnership is to help organizations enable their data capabilities, empower their employees, democratize innovation, to gain a competitive edge, allow more educated and real-time decision making, save or reduce costs, assist in up-sales and cross-sales, create new value and to deliver improved business performance.

“Especially in the present context, being data-driven has become an essential condition for any organization to thrive in a more complex and fast-changing business ecosystem. Organizations falling behind in this transformation see their data-driven competitors seize market share and move into their customer base,” reads the statement.

Understanding that becoming a data-driven organization and building a data culture has been a difficult and long process in the East Africa region while deriving value from the investment needed to become data-driven remains a challenge for organizations locked in legacy data environments, business processes, skill sets, and change-resistant cultures.

In his regular Big Data posts on LinkedIn on May 21, Mr Ameida noted that customer trust around data is becoming mission critical for most businesses, as they must design their products for transparency, trust, and responsible usage of data.

“In a time where increasing capabilities in big data, cloud computing, data processing and analytical tools are being disclosed daily, making the case for data minimalism may seem out of place. Data minimalism is a reminder of the final purpose of the information organizations collect: to enable good decision-making,” he wrote.

A report about the state of data and analytics in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) in 2020 explores the changing role of the chief data analytics officer (CDAO), how data leaders support business objectives, AI use and hurdles holding back organisations.

The report, An Exclusive Snapshot of the Opportunities and Challenges Facing Data and Analytics Leaders Today, reveals that having someone who is responsible for maximising the value of a company’s data asset is essential for businesses operating in the digital age.

It indicated that more than 70 C-Suite data leaders have been hired in the MEA region since 2012.

“Going back five years ago, data and especially analytics were kind of a ‘nice to have’ for companies,” says Louise de Beer, Head of BI and Data Science at analytics driven estate agent Leadhome, and one of three authors of the report.

“Then, if you look at reports from two years ago, innovators started playing with data as a differentiator. I think where we are now is that data is becoming a hygiene factor. If you don’t have it, what are you doing with your business?”

The number of executives working in senior roles is a simple litmus test for assessing a region’s data maturity. South Africa is a regional trailblazer in this respect, with the UAE in a distant second place.

The report suggests that a consensus is starting to form about where the chief data officer (CDO) sits in relation to the wider organisation. Gone are the days of the CDO reporting to the chief information officer (CIO).

Instead, 60 per cent of the CDAOs who responded to the survey answered to their company’s chief operations officer (COO), 20 per cent report to the chief risk officer (CRO) and another 20 percent answer directly to the CEO.

As Mark Nasila, Chief Analytics Officer at FNB South Africa who also led the research work explains, data leaders need a mandate that spans the whole business in order to effectively drive organisational change.

“The business needs or use cases are very unique to each business unit. What I’ve done is to follow what is called a ‘shared services’ operating model. The strategy is centrally led, but it’s executed in a decentralised way, at a business unit level,” he said.

The role of a CDAO will naturally evolve with a company’s data maturity. A company’s first CDAO will initially be concerned with developing a data strategy and laying the foundations for data success.

But with this groundwork complete, their focus will shift towards enhancing the ways their organisation can extract value from its data asset.

The research shows that this evolution is well underway in organisations across MEA. A full 46 per cent of data leaders say their companies are in this transitionary phase, with 42.5 per cent reporting that their data teams are focused primarily on offensive initiatives.

Hartnell Ndungi, CDO at Absa Bank of Kenya (formerly Barclays), another key member of the research team, explains that people start visualising their data better, they start asking questions like, ‘What will happen in the future?’

“In South Africa and East Africa, what I am seeing is that 90 per cent of CDOs are at ‘level one’. They are focusing mostly on data management, data protection and data privacy,” he reveals.

“Am also seeing a few CDO 2.0s, who are also able to talk about solutioning and coming up with dashboards and analysis to ensure that you’re able to visualise and present data better, and very few CDO 3.0s,” he adds.

The vast majority of the survey respondents said the purpose of their role is to drive business performance through advanced analytics.