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Tips for Aligning Corporate and Data Strategies from FNB’s Nozipho Duma

Nozipho Duma, Head of Data within one of South African bank FNB’s business units, shares her tips for aligning data and corporate strategies in a recent episode of Data Conversations Over Coffee



As Head of Data at FNB, one of South Africa’s big four banks, Nozipho Duma sees digital transformation and formulating a data strategy as inseparable pieces of the business transformation puzzle. Aligning corporate and data strategies is essential for success.

Having previously worked as a digital transformation program lead in South Africa and abroad, Duma has a wealth of experience in ensuring data strategy and corporate strategy alignment. In a recent episode of Data Conversations Over Coffee, she shares her tips for doing this successfully.

“Transformation and the organization’s data strategy go hand-in-hand,” she says. “Many businesses have traditionally been platform-driven. But now they’re focusing on being data-driven, acquiring and implementing robust systems and processes that work together to solve issues. Now, we’re looking at how else we can accelerate our digital transformation using the available data sets and assets.”

What a Data Strategy is and Why Your Organization Needs One

Digital transformation often entails integrating existing systems with new ones onto a single platform and then using that to solve business objectives, deliver more value to consumers and the organization itself.

Duma argues that data plays a pivotal role in these projects. But a company’s data strategy should be simple. It should be easy to absorb, giving those who’ll be working with it measurable and actionable instructions.

Effective data strategies:

  • Tie back to the business objectives. It’s important to consider the data the organization has already and what additional data is needed to unlock business value by providing customer-centric solutions to customers and improving operations
  • Consider the capabilities the organization will need to develop. This includes the people skillsets and technology investments that are necessary to deliver the strategy
  • Provide a roadmap for implementation. Plan the data initiatives you want to roll out. This will determine which data assets to create, the kinds of insights that will be generated and the systems that will be needed to share insights with company stakeholders

Prioritize Change Management and Implementation

Even with a strategy in place, Duma says it takes vision to implement it. For example, if the goal is to improve product offerings, what problems can you solve, or what opportunities can you identify using data?

Duma highlights two characteristics that each phase of a data strategy’s implementation should possess:

  • Projects with simple and measurable objectives. This includes targeting a product offering to a particular market.
  • Plans for change management. You need to get everyone in the business to collaborate on data strategy execution. You will also need to pinpoint who you need to execute it.

It’s also important to consider the business and regulatory landscape. There will be gaps to fill in areas such as governance and compliance. With laws such as South Africa’s Protection of Personal Information Act in place, data risk is one of the main things Duma advises executives to keep an eye on.

You can then ensure these gaps are closed by adding those details considered to the data roadmap and putting timelines in place.

Plan Necessary Data Architecture Upgrades

Data architecture is a vital part of the data strategy because it’s how data is collected, stored and disseminated. Duma explains that the data architecture landscape is made up of data producers, data consumers and the data pipeline.

“A lot of businesses are sourcing more data externally and there are a lot of service-level agreements and other information to get through a platform ,” she says. "That’s another important component of the data producers; understanding how you get data onto the platform.”

“At the other end of the landscape is the consumption component ,” she adds. "But in the middle of everything is the data pipeline, which takes information from the producers and feeds it into the data platform. Once the data is in the platform, it can be used to build data products and get insights.”

“Considering how central the pipeline is to the data strategy, it must be scalable and robust,” she continues. “You can put things into a roadmap. But you still need robust implementation and quick MVPs [minimum viable products] to start showing the organization value.”

“As business units, we tend to work in silos,” Duma says. “Data architecture brings everything together. Because the silos are working towards solving similar things, they can come together and solve problems holistically.

Secure Budget and Executive Buy-In

Even with the best data strategy in the world, you’ll be unable to drive organizational change without sufficient budget and the support of company decision-makers and executives.

Data-driven companies tend to think differently. Executives at these companies tackle problems through a data lens, asking questions such as, ‘What problems are we trying to solve? What data do we have? What data do we still need? And what initiatives can we put in place to achieve the strategy?’

Duma highlights how focusing on specific use cases and communicating the business outcomes they’ll allow stakeholders to achieve can help to drive home the value of having a data strategy.

“Many financial institutions build predictive models that determine the propensity of a customer to miss payments, for example, using both external and internal information such as behavioral and transactional data,” she says. “Through the credit application process, the bank might choose to reject a client’s application based on their high propensity to default on repayments.”

Six Steps to Data Strategy Success

Getting an entire business to understand the value of its data strategy doesn’t happen by osmosis, Duma quips. Delivering a data strategy successfully requires going through the processes detailed above with business, linking key initiatives to the value they will deliver.

For more tips and practical advice on aligning corporate and data strategies and developing an effective data strategy for your business, click here now and download our report, Six Steps to Chief Data and Analytics Officer Success.