Elephant at Pilanesberg National Park, South Africa

Africom’s PROTEA Program

Our 300th article. After this year’s Gartner MDM Summit conference (May 4-6 in Los Angeles), Hub Designs sent a small team to a new client in South Africa called Africom. 

This large telecom company is getting ready to do an enterprise transformation program called PROTEA, which stands for Process Redesign, Organizational Transformation and Enterprise Architecture.

They recognized early on that master data management would be a critical part of their new enterprise architecture, so they reached out to Hub Designs last fall, when they were starting to put together their new program. We worked closely with them to help craft an engagement that would focus on developing a Strategic Roadmap and Business Case, and after being home from the Gartner MDM Summit for three days, we headed to South Africa to kick off that engagement.

Our main contact, Maurice, met us in the lobby and quickly ushered us through getting security badges and a quick tour of the facilities. Our first scheduled meeting was with Paul, the MDM program’s business sponsor, who would be an important ally. The meeting went very well, and we promised to work on some introductory slides he could use at the kickoff meeting coming up that Monday.

An hour later, we met the entire PROTEA team, including Maurice’s boss, Clark, plus the organizational change management team, led by Carol, the enterprise architect, Brian, a business analyst named Lisa, and project managers Joseph and Stephan. We were struck by the warm, welcoming feeling we got from the team, and the efficient way everyone got down to business, getting ready for the upcoming week’s workshops on MDM, data governance and the “As Is” and “To Be” states that we would be having with the business and IT community.

The next day, we spent time finalizing the presentations for those workshops, and meeting with the business sponsor again. We also started having some one-on-one meetings with people from the business, and we met with the project manager and talked about how we saw future phases of the program shaping up.

Friday was hectic, as we were putting the finishing touches on the presentations for the upcoming workshops. We would be presenting to and meeting with almost 50 people from across business and IT, and doing an “Intro. to MDM” session on Monday, for 3 hours in the morning, and then 3 hours in the afternoon. On Tuesday, we would do two 2 hour “As Is” workshop, and then on Thursday, two workshops on the desired “To Be” state. All told, we did more than 14 hours of workshops in three days.

Friday evening, the team was very gracious in inviting the Hub Designs folks out, along with the rest of the PROTEA team and a few international visitors, plus everyone’s families, to an authentic South African “brai, which involved a lot of great conversation, adult beverages and huge quantities of barbecued meats. It was a great time, and a very good way to get to know everyone on the team in a short time.

During the week, we also had some one-on-one meetings with a few key IT people who were critical to win over to the MDM initiative. They were skeptical at first, in some cases, but it seemed the meetings went well, and we reached a meeting of the minds that the PROTEA initiative, and the MDM component of it, was something they recognized the need for, and that MDM was something that “made sense” to them. So, a few more potential allies in the enterprise were identified.

The Monday “Intro. to MDM” workshops went very well. Lots of good discussion and questions, very interactive, engaged attendees from both business and IT, good evaluation forms, a big relief at the end of the day that it went so well.

Tuesday’s “As Is” sessions went well too, although it was a little harder because of the mixed audience of business and IT people. At one point, we were discussing some technical questions for a few minutes, and of the business chimed in and said that if we didn’t change the subject back to a more business-oriented track, she was going to leave. We immediately saw that she was right; we were losing the audience. So we apologized, explained that we would change back to a more business-oriented theme, and we’d take technical discussions “offline” if they came up in the future.

Wednesday was a national holiday so that South Africans could vote, but Tim Smith and myself came into the office and worked anyway, getting ready for the Thursday session and preparing for a Friday meeting with Africom’s CIO that had just been set up.

Thursday’s “To Be” sessions were very productive, leading to lots of back and forth discussions with the business users and the IT people about what the destination point for PROTEA should look like.

We used the Gartner Seven Building Blocks of MDM: A Framework for Success as a guide, with some additional Hub Designs frameworks added in as well. Basically, we focused on aligning the MDM vision with Africom’s overall business strategy, then developing an MDM strategy that supported that MDM vision, and creating some metrics (while working towards an MDM business case) that the MDM initiative can impact in a positive way.

Finally, we recognized that without a strong emphasis on governance, MDM is just “throwing technology at a problem” and is unlikely to be successful, so we planned for creating a data governance organization and corresponding processes. Only then did we envision the technology and future architecture that will facilitate the organizational transformation, process redesign and enterprise architecture that PROTEA requires.

Realizing that there are significant gaps between the “As Is” state and the “To Be” state, we dug in and spent a long working session on Friday listing those gaps. On Monday, we’ll prioritize the gaps and identify the gap closure strategies needed to remedy or close all of the gaps we identified.

We also had a great meeting with Africom’s CIO on Friday, who was very receptive and impressed me with his grasp of the implications of a business-led data governance organization on the relationship between business and IT at Africom. We spent 30 minutes talking with him and it was one of the best business conversations I’ve ever had with a C-level IT person.

Over the weekend, Tim Smith and I took a break and drove to the Pilanesberg National Park, a game reserve in the North West Province of South Africa. What a beautiful place! We saw zebra, gazelles, giraffes, Cape buffalo, hyenas, impala. Saturday night, we stayed in Sun City, which was an awesome resort about 15 minutes from the game reserve. Sunday morning, we went back and had the most amazing experience. Five or six elephants walked right in front of our car, including one giant one who stopped directly in front of us, eyeballed us for about 5 minutes, sniffing the hood of the car, even touching it with his trunk, trying to decide whether to charge us or not. Eventually though, he decided we were no threat and he wandered off to join the rest of his family.

We’ve got two more days of meetings, as we discuss the importance of data governance with Clark’s boss, meet with another critical senior IT person, have our gap closure strategies working session, and have a debriefing session at the end of the engagement on what we’ve accomplished, and what are the next steps.

We’ll be coming back in July for another two weeks to finalize the Strategic Roadmap and Business Case, and to spend some time socializing them with the business community and IT leadership that we’ve met on this trip. We’ve really enjoyed the first two weeks of this engagement and are looking forward to the next part in July.

Africom has a lot of work ahead of it as it brings PROTEA from the early stages to the execution stage. We’re looking forward to being one of their MDM and data governance partners, as they take on this massive program.

We look at it as an effort comparable to trying to lift a pyramid – you need someone at each corner and many people in between. “Many hands make light work.”

In partnership with the Africom business and IT staff, the SI firm they’ll engage to assist with PROTEA, and a local consulting firm that also specializes in data management and information quality, we think Hub Designs can continue to make a big impact on the MDM and data governance component of the PROTEA initiative.

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