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Dumisani Enos Mthimkhulu

Dumisani Enos Mthimkhulu

Data Asset Management (DAM) Leader | Data Governance | Data and Technology Change Agent

Dumisani has been instrumental in establishing the Data Asset Management (DAM) competency in the Standard Bank Group and championing the investment into, adoption of and execution on, Data Asset Management and Data Governance technologies and best practices. His role involves overseeing a range of data-related functions and platforms to ensure the Group gets the most value from their data assets. These functions include Metadata Management, Data Profiling, Data Quality, Data Modelling, and Reference Data Management, Cloud and AI. He is a well-respected change agent in an ever-evolving technology landscape and always strives to make a difference within the Group and the larger data community.

What attracted you to data management or IT, and why did you choose to pursue this career?

It might sound silly but even as a child working as a cattle herder in the Eastern Cape I was driven by data. From an early age, you are taught to read the “data signals” in the sky, the grass, the contours of the land, and the cattle. They tell you where to go and how far you can go. While the data may not have been absolute and concrete, it is what helped me manage the herd and keep them safe, happy, and well fed. As I grew older and went from cow herder to taxi driver, the “data signals” changed, but the way I used them to manage my routes and keep my customers safe remained the same.

So, to answer your question, I did not choose data management as a career, it chose me. From my humble beginnings as a cattle herder to the head of Data Asset Management for the largest bank in Africa, making the most of data is in my blood.

What has been your greatest career accomplishment so far, and why has it been important to your career?

I am fascinated by all aspects of data management; whether it is planning our digital future, to enabling our data stakeholders so they can make the most of their data journey and guiding the people who will make it happen. So, if I had to pick the “greatest accomplishment so far” it would be when I was tasked with establishing a data asset management competency for the Standard Bank Group and heading up a team of the best platform engineers on the continent. Over the years, the team has achieved amazing things together. We were awarded 2nd place by the DGPO for our data governance efforts, and we were the first in the world to remotely install CP4D under very trying circumstances. 

On a more personal note, one of my proudest moments was being the first person on the African continent to earn a Marco Masters Series certification, awarded with highest Honours.

What are the two or three biggest challenges you face as a data management professional / CDO and how can we address them?

First up, would be the emergence of new data types. We are extremely proficient at managing structured data. It is easy to understand and put into logical boxes, but with the advent of data streams, graph processing and evolving unstructured data types, coupled with frequent updates and regulatory compliance, we need to adjust our traditional approach to managing data. We need to embrace scalability and elasticity and find new ways to adapt to a rapidly changing data landscape.

Secondly, and probably an extension of the first challenge, is how do we harness the data-rich knowledge residing in people’s heads, especially our staff. When they retire, or we sadly lose them to COVID, we scramble to fill the data void their absence leaves behind. The pandemic has shown us that we must find proactive, thoughtful, and meaningful ways to share our data knowledge and expertise, whether it be through stories, honest debates or in a more formal setting, like masterclasses and organization sponsored mentorship programs.

And finally, going forward we will need to figure out ways to balance the need for data democratization with the need to protect our data in a hybrid and multi-cloud world.

How do you see data management / the role of the CDO / IT changing in the next 2 – 3 years?

In the coming years, I think we will move on from polishing the nuts and bolts of data management, to using those nuts and bolts to build a high- performance “data driven” engine that moves the organization forward. It has been my experience that while certain aspects of data management have matured, we still struggle to turn what we know into action worthy roadmaps that are easy to adapt when things change.

The pandemic was a wakeup call for all of us. It pushed us all to find new ways to communicate and collaborate. We learned to live and work in new ways, previously considered unimaginable. I believe we can use what we learned to create a flexible data strategy that aims to solve business problems and makes the whole data management process more cooperative, efficient and solution oriented. With all the turmoil and uncertainty, we have been given a wonderful opportunity to evolve data governance and management into something more akin to data ambassadorship. We should open ourselves to new ways of doing things and allow ourselves to be challenged. Nothing is written in stone.

Do you have any planned next steps for your career?

Besides moving into the cloud and enacting a practical data management framework to help ensure the Standard Bank Group remains competitive in a digital world, I will be focusing on sharing purposeful and engaging data stories that Africa can relate to. Data innovation comes when you combine technical knowledge with local understanding. I want to tap into the rich oral traditions of our African continent and find ways to contribute, in a meaningful way, towards building up the data management skills of the real data experts in Africa; the workers, researchers, bankers and cattle herders, like me.

What is the single best piece of advice you have received in your data management / IT career so far?  Why has it been so important to you?

My work Mom told me to never underestimate the value Africanism can bring. “Your past and rich history can be used to stimulate new views and ideas that blend the best parts of you with what is currently out there. Do not be scared to tell your story”. It made me realize just how much I can offer when I tap into my authentic self.

Can you share something about yourself as a person that people wouldn’t know about you?

When I am not managing data, you will find me running up and down mountains and, on the odd occasion, taking a break to deliver a baby on the side of the road. I have chased down a lion without thinking twice but the smell of a lemon will bring me to my knees and if you work with me, I will help you build a house in 5 days. 

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