Building the data management bedrock to drive digital transformation

31 January 2022 5 min. read

The use of data can evolve to become one of the fundamental enablers of driving Saudi Arabia’s digital economy and broader Vision 2030 agenda, according to a new report by KPMG.

Nowadays billed as ‘the new oil’, the potential benefits of data are widespread – from enhancing customer experience, operations and decision-making in any organization, to bolstering the government’s ability to serve its people and businesses. For Mazhar Hussain, the Leader of KPMG Lighthouse in Saudi Arabia, the opportunity is so large that it could “fuel the digital economy and serve as a bedrock for Vision 2030.” 

To put the potential into perspective: the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) estimates the value of Saudi Arabia’s data and AI economy to be SAR15 to 20 billion. 

Data management principles and The opportunities of good data management

“Data is now a significant driver of business value. If that data can be kept secure, accurate, and available for analysis, it can offer a competitive advantage,” said Hussain.

As with any mega opportunity that unfolds, the challenge mainly lies in how its value can be unlocked. KPMG’s latest white paper, titled ‘From data management to data transformation’, hones in on exactly that matter, in the process identifying the building blocks that need to be put into place for data management and analytics to be successful.

The key, the authors state, is to craft a journey in small, incremental steps. Building on a “strong foundation that provides the right support infrastructure and builds trust”, only then does it make sense to “travel the road into advanced analytics and artificial intelligence,” suggests the report.

KPMG - Data management framework

“Good data management enables organizations to use, share, and in effect, democratize their data to glean maximum value from it and, in doing so, gain a competitive edge,” explained Hussain. “But to get to this stage, the right foundations need to be in place so that data is relevant, accessible, and trustworthy.”

“It is crucial to have processes in place to manage structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data that accrues over time,” he added.

What’s more, “putting in place the right data foundations will enable organizations to make leaps forward in terms of technology adoption and innovation / value creation from data in the medium and longer-term.”

The data management framework

So how does this fundament then look like? As a blueprint of reference, KPMG’s report points at two well-defined industry standards, arguing that it would be pointless to reinvent the wheel and instead leverage an approach that has been tried and tested, and institutionalized in the Kingdom. 

NDMO data management and personal data protection framework

For public sector organizations, the starting point is the NDMO which has published a detailed set of regulations under fifteen pillars for data management and data governance best practice.

For private sector organizations, the Data Management Association International (DAMA) is a reference point for governance. DAMA International’s Data Management Body of Knowledge was used as a basis for the Kingdom’s National Data Management Standards.

On top of leveraging the established frameworks, Hussain said it is important for organizations to “develop their own data management practices – tailor-made to their business and type and quality of their data” and work towards a “good data management culture that encourages the use and democratization of data and its insights”.

Setting up a data management strategy

“Companies need to nurture data culture from the top-down and bottom-up. This requires a data team with the right skills, training, accessibility, and management.”

Presenting a multi-step guide, KPMG’s report then goes on to provide practical steps that can be followed in order to design, implement and embed a data management strategy.

“In brief, our methodology for data management lists four steps; setting up a data strategy; data management and governance; metadata management and data classification, and data quality and master data management,” summarized Hussain.

In Saudi Arabia, KPMG has a team dedicated to helping clients with data management strategies and transformations. “We’re proud to have recently been named a ‘leader’ in the domain by a top analyst firm [Forrester], with high scores for data governance, training and literacy, data integration, community, and business impact offerings,” concluded Hussain.