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Connecting Africa Podcast: S3 Ep. 3 Unleashing the power of data

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In the rapidly evolving data analytics landscape of Africa, specialists are emerging to help local companies transform their data management and analytics capabilities to fully utilize the ever-growing amount of data being created.

On this Connecting Africa Podcast, we chat to Reza du Plooy, director and co-owner of analytics consultancy Datalab, which helps solve data processes for mid-to-large companies with complex data systems.

The podcast covers the role that data analytics plays in the success of businesses of all sizes, as well as the unique data challenges the continent faces.

Du Plooy started off by sharing background on the company, which focuses on data analytics platform implementation, offering services like data strategy, business intelligence (BI) road mapping, data engineering, data visualization, embedded analytics, and strategies to monetize data, capability development and cloud architecture.

Datalab's clients range from financial services platforms like Mukuru and Old Mutual to retail companies like Woolworths and the Foschini Group as well as international brands like Starbucks and Red Bull.

The business was founded in 2012 by Pieter Olivier and Douglas Day, with the aim to deliver better consulting services in the data analytics space. Du Plooy joined the firm in 2015, becoming a director and co-owner in 2022. The company operates from Cape Town, South Africa, and London.

"In 2021 the cloud hype really kicked off and recognizing the benefits of cloud-native technologies we started transitioning our business to a cloud-first strategy. It's been a complete learning curve over the last three years. We now work closely with carefully selected technology partners, and we understand that there is a critical role of technology in our business to drive quality and cost-effectiveness for our clients," du Plooy said.

She also shared her experience as a female leader in a typically male-dominated industry.

"I've experienced, often, sitting in meetings or boardrooms feeling like I'm being treated like the note-taker or the junior person but actually being the subject-matter expert. That hasn't really bothered me too much. I think what is a real barrier for me at this point is balancing being a business owner, and having some seriousness around my career, and being a mom," she said of her experience.

"It's typically quite a challenge to make sure you can deliver on the requirements of your job but also the needs of your family. For me that is still the biggest barrier faced by women in the workforce today, is making sure you can have both those things," she added.

Data maturity in Africa

The conversation shifted to the biggest misconceptions that businesses have when it comes to enterprise analytics and data maturity and how education is often needed before companies can even start on their data journey.

"I don't think people are reluctant to do data analytics work, I think most people understand that creating a competitive advantage for their business through understanding their customers better is necessary. What we often find is that not a lot of businesses have thought about the investment it would take to get there," she explained.

She spoke about the frameworks needed to drive successful data analytics projects, data analytics maturity models and the digital skills needed to make these projects a reality.

Reza du Plooy, director and co-owner of Datalab.   (Source: Datalab)
Reza du Plooy, director and co-owner of Datalab.
(Source: Datalab)

The conversation also covered how startups and small companies can tap into their data better and how big companies can focus on specific department-led projects to improve customer service and efficiency and grow revenues.

The team discussed the role that data analytics is playing in Africa's tech ecosystem and the opportunities for local businesses to make money from the data economy, especially in the cloud-first world.

Du Plooy said that in the South African context, leveraging cloud technologies takes away a lot of infrastructure-related problems.

"What I've seen in Cape Town is we have a brilliant pool of talent here. We have up-and-coming smart people doing incredible things that are going to contribute to this world of data. So I think for us it's really about looking at leveraging cloud technologies and moving away from infrastructure and really tapping into the talent that we have here," she added.

Datalab directors Douglas Day, Pieter Olivier and Reza du Plooy.   (Source: Datalab)
Datalab directors Douglas Day, Pieter Olivier and Reza du Plooy.
(Source: Datalab)

Du Plooy shared some advice for young people wanting to get into data analytics and the skills needed to be successful in this sphere.

She spoke about the opportunities that artificial intelligence (AI) offers when it comes to data – like tapping into previously unexploited data sets.

"I think there is definitely an increasingly transformative role for AI in this ecosystem. I do think we are getting to the point now of delivering tangible results beyond the hype," she shared.

"It seems like 2024 is the year for the [AI] reality check, refining our understanding of what AI can do and hopefully for our business figuring out how we can use it to make our processes better," she added.

The podcast wrapped up with du Plooy sharing the most important lessons she has learned when working with different companies on their data journeys and how these have shaped Datalab's business focus.

Want to find more Connecting Africa Podcasts check out our Podcast Archive here.

If you want to catch up on previous episodes, you can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts; Spotify; Pocket Casts or find other podcast platform options on our main page on Spotify for Podcasters.

You can also find the podcast hosts online here:

Paula Gilbert (@paulajgilbert)

Tobi Lafinhan (@TobiLafinhan)

Matshepo Sehloho (@tsokamatshepo)

Related posts:

Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

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