Data mindsets: The future of organisations

With newly founded and agile “tech-first” companies using data to transform so many industries, there is a critical need for other, established organisations to up-skill. The need for data transformation in many businesses is evident. The challenge however, isn’t in the skills themselves, but in creating a culture that embraces change.

In Steve Case’s best-selling book, Third Wave, he predicts that we’re at the dawn of ‘the next technological revolution’. According to him, the ‘Third Wave’ of the internet will be unlike anything we’ve ever seen before – and it will transform the economy and the way we live our lives.

With these changes come massive upheavals in our workforce. According to Josh Bersin, a world-known industry analyst and founder of Bersin by Deloitte, 53% of today’s jobs will be gone in 10 years.

People’s jobs may not disappear – but many will need to change substantially.

Cultural resistance to change

Critically, nearly 1/3 of executives cite “cultural resistance to change” as the primary factor in preventing success. When combined with challenges relating to organisational alignment and executive leadership, the results indicate that nearly 2/3 of the issues preventing the successful adoption of data initiatives can be attributed to cultural factors.

To use our data effectively, after all, we rely just as much upon the softer human skills needed for decision-making as we do on our tech. As one of our clients (a senior executive within a Big Four accountancy firm) remarked: “You can bring in all the tech you want, but we need a culture shift”.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that successful “data cultures” actually have a competitive edge. In their recent research, McKinsey were struck by “the competitive advantage unleashed by a culture that brings data talent, tools, and decision making together.” Additionally, new Microsoft research revealed that companies that have started to use AI are already outperforming organisations that have not by 5%.

Creating a culture that embraces digital transformation

From our clients’ experience, and our own, I’ve realised that you really can’t segregate data culture. As McKinsey argue, “You develop a culture by moving beyond specialists and skunkworks, with the goal of achieving deep business engagement, creating employee pull, and cultivating a sense of purpose, so that data can support your operations instead of the other way around.”

At AVADO, we are acutely aware of the challenges which is why we have developed our Data Academy. As a company, we help people and businesses achieve their potential by delivering inspiring digital-first learning. And from working with major clients such as Google, CIPD, and Talktalk, we have a clear idea of the challenges that organisations are currently facing.

I believe there are 4 critical  elements for creating an organisation-wide data mindset:

  1. Tailoring the approach to your organisation
  2. Centralising access to data, and building understanding
  3. Taking the lead on data from the top-down
  4. Retaining and retraining current staff

Now let me unpack what I mean by that.

  1. Tailoring the approach to your organisation

Research from McKinsey suggests that the gap between leaders and laggards in adopting analytics is growing. At AVADO, we’re seeing the same thing on the ground. Some companies are doing amazing things; some are still struggling with the basics; and some are feeling downright overwhelmed.

Tensions are starting to rise, as mainstream firms fear they can’t keep up with the rapid developments. In a recent study, 79.4% percent of executive decision-makers said they fear disruption and displacement – up from 46.6% in 2017.

When it comes to creating these elusive “data cultures”, there really is no one-size-fits-all. Even within our client base there are major differences – and people are struggling with very different problems. For example, many of our clients in the insurance sector are especially worried about the arrival of FinTechs in the space. “Someone’s going to get there quicker,” one senior executive commented, “So we just have to survive it.”

To tackle these issues, it’s absolutely key to get clear on your own particular business challenge – and the solutions need to be tailored to tackle them. That’s why our Data Academy includes a diagnostic service to help companies develop a tailor-made approach. Our multi-faceted offering can help upskill employees at all levels of the organisation to be more data-confident, and trains data employees to become more commercially-minded, helping them to crack real business problems and demonstrate impact.

  1. Centralising access to data, and building understanding

Currently, only 33% of full-time employees in the U.S. are confident in their data literacy. One global director lamented to us that they’ve had a large number of people leave their business this year – “perhaps because they’re uncomfortable” with all the new data capabilities they suddenly need to master.

The fact is that, across organisations, not everyone has the same capability. We don’t all need to be experts. But we do need to find a way to get entire organisations comfortable with data – and that goes for everyone at every level.

This future may not be far off. According to Jeff Catlin, CEO of Lexalytics, “just as computers have become more widely available and easier to use, so too will AI.” As AI becomes more ubiquitous, and the tools become more user-friendly, Catlin predicts that barriers to entry will go down, “and data science will become just another skill we’re all at least somewhat literate in.”

To enable this, we can start with something as simple as finding a way to centralise data, and getting rid of jargon, in order to move away from silos. At AVADO’s Data Academy, we also work to develop community programs, so data literacy becomes top-of-mind, and seeps into daily consciousness.

  1. Taking the lead on data from the top-down

A key challenge is creating organisation-wide passion around data. When I’ve spoken to senior executives from a wide variety of organisations, they all consistently emphasise the importance of one thing: taking on data and digital from the top-down.

It seems like senior leaders are rising to the challenge. According to one survey, in 2018, a nearly unanimous 98.6% of executives indicated that their company aspires to a ‘data-driven culture’, up from 85.5% in the 2017 survey. However, research from McKinsey suggests that, in order to create a competitive advantage, we have to stimulate demand for data capabilities from the roots up – and we need to develop a data mindset that moves “beyond specialists and skunkworks”.

One of our clients, a senior leader in the banking world, has found internal roadshows and expos particularly effective in stimulating demand: “When I see some of the amazing innovation we do for our clients, I start getting onboard, and it’s really exciting.” Others have told us they’ve had great success through leaderboards and competitions. One company has even established special “data squads”, and have seen a massive growth in interest from people in traditional roles, who want to be part of the fun.

Commitment from the CEO and the board is essential. However, this commitment must be shown in more than just the occasional high-level pronouncement. Top decision-makers need to foster an ongoing, informed conversation with their companies. There are lots of ways to do it – but senior leaders need to keeping banging that drum.

  1. Retaining and retraining current staff

In order for data to become adopted by our workforce, it’s crucial that companies figure out how to support and retain current staff.

Currently, employee engagement is facing a serious challenge, with Glassdoor reporting an average employer recommendation score of only 3.2 (out of 5), from over 200,000 responses. One of our clients commented that “we spend so much time worrying about what our customers want, we forget what our colleagues want.”

Frankly put, if people don’t enjoy working at our companies, we can’t keep them. So what are people looking for?

Younger people today have a greater tendency to move around every 2-3 years – and a big part of this is a desire to learn new skills. In fact, according to recent analysis by Josh Bersin, among Millennials “career opportunities” is the #1 driver of employment brand.

According to Bersin, “education and skills are perhaps the biggest driver of your own personal earnings potential, so organisations that offer training, lots of developmental assignments, and a coaching culture are now the premium places to work.” Perhaps this is why global investments in learning technology companies reached over $9.52 billion in 2017, up 30% from 2016.

Most importantly, we need to integrate the right kind of talent for our data cultures. And according to McKinsey, “that calls for striking the appropriate balance for your institution between injecting new employees and transforming existing ones.”

At AVADO, the one thing that stands out to us is that people want to learn how to adapt their skills for the future nature of work. We are aware (and so are they) that they currently don’t have the right capabilities to remain competitive in this space. And we all have to re-skill.

Those who are worried about brain drain may be thinking: “What if we train them, and they leave?” But here’s another thought: What if we don’t train them, and they stay?

Here at AVADO, we believe that businesses need to transform the way entire organizations approach data. Our Data Academy adopts a two-pronged approach: developing data literacy for all, but also upskilling data scientists to be more business-savvy as well.

The future of organisations

Organisations need to rethink – well – their organisations.

At AVADO, we face the same challenge internally as our clients do: building the skills and capabilities we need to survive in a data-driven future. It’s an organisation-wide challenge – and it’s as much about technical skills as the softer entrepreneurial business skills.

We will always need humans to interpret and manage our technology. To do that successfully, we all need to evolve, and learn to operate within a data-driven world.


Interested in learning more about how the AVADO Data Academy can help your organisation and about our free levy-funded programs? Give us a call on +44 (0)20 8080 6482 or email us at



Posted January 9, 2019