By Johan Scheepers, Country Head at Commvault South Africa

The future is being reshaped as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and recent lockdown, which has forced many organisations to fast-track their digital transformation strategies, as they need agility and flexibility to continue operating.

While many companies were already making progress in terms of the adoption of cloud technologies, process automation and workforce mobilisation, the pandemic has accelerated this journey as companies realise that they need to do things differently, and fast. Increasingly, organisations are looking at how they can optimise and drive more value out of their technology.

In South Africa, the focus of most companies in recent months has been on business continuity, beyond the scale of what it used to be and what was planned for. The industries that could work from home had to move rapidly to get their staff set up for remote working, put all the necessary security in place, as well as focus on keeping the lights on.

Currently, many of the country’s enterprises are re-evaluating their remote working strategies and some are coming to the conclusion that these will remain in place permanently, while some are also reviewing their business continuity plans and turning to the public cloud.

Perfect storm

This fast-changing technology landscape is likely to lead to a perfect storm on the data management front. To explain further, few organisations are giving much thought to whether the systems they are putting in place now will still allow them to access their data, or to know what data they are generating.

In the rush caused by the lockdown, many companies have failed to ask whether their data is adequately protected and how it is protected. Yet, the pandemic is driving many of the cybersecurity issues that we now face on a daily basis. It is no longer a case of if a company will be attacked by cybercriminals, but a matter of when.

Organisations have to take a step back and ask whether the cybersecurity policy they’ve put in place previously is still adequate and determine whether their governance policy is still being adequately enforced. While these are key considerations to protecting a company’s data, the trend that we are seeing is that organisations tend to forget about these policies.

The last component of this perfect storm is the Protection of Persona Information (PoPI) Act, which was signed into law at the beginning of July, giving companies a year to comply. This will see many enterprises scrambling to tighten up their environments from a compliance and corporate governance perspective.

Data sovereignty

Data sovereignty, a requirement of various data privacy laws such as the PoPI Act, is another critical issue that organisations need to consider. Most companies that have adopted the services of hyperscale cloud providers must realise that – in one form or other – they have data that resides outside the country’s borders.

In respect to this, adopting a multi-cloud strategy has created an issue for organisations in terms of data sovereignty, and it is very important for them to understand what data is living where, what the nature of that data is and whether they are in breach of any regulations. This will also be a huge point of focus for companies in the coming year.

Simplification and automation, underpinned by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies, will be key for better data management. Companies should look at how they can consolidate their data management tools to make them easier to manage. Automation can be used to centralise these tools and pick up any anomalies in an organisation’s data.

When reassessing their digital transformation strategies, organisations should double down on better data management and stick to sound business policies in terms of governance and corporate standards. Go back to basics and don’t overcomplicate things – better data management principles are the key to success.