How to Leverage the Cloud to Create a Modern Culture of Data


Renowned psychologist Albert Bandura once wrote, “Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do.”

Imagine a world like that, where people’s only data source is firsthand experience and the only way they can learn is “the hard way.” It is a world in which knowledge is not shared, and culture—comprising the collective beliefs, values, goals, and practices that guide people—effectively does not exist.

The real world is mercifully different. “Fortunately,” Bandura went on to explain, “most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions, this coded information serves as a guide for action.”

Data-driven organizations transcend the definition of “others”; their members learn not only by observing other humans but also by tracking and analyzing large quantities of data. To truly improve based on that data, members must have a common understanding of what the data means, why it matters, and what should be done with it, along with the culture that surrounds it. In this way, a data-driven organization cannot succeed without a data-driven culture.

At Slalom, we call this kind of culture a Modern Culture of Data, and it contains five key elements:

  • Vision: Know where you’re going, how you’re getting there, and why it’s important.
  • Guardianship: Establish trust in data, tools, and practices.
  • Access & Transparency: Make data accessible through integrated architecture and flexible, scalable systems.
  • Literacy: Develop the mindset and skills that drive action.
  • Ways of Working: Embed insights in behaviors and operations.

The Promise of the Cloud: Guardianship and Access & Transparency

Cloud services help foster a Modern Culture of Data, especially with respect to the elements Guardianship and Access & Transparency. Aspects of both appear as major drivers of cloud migration in this IDC research paper. In the words of one IT architect at a manufacturing organization quoted in the paper, “We needed to get away from our on-premises environment for a variety of reasons—mostly for data security—and we were long overdue for this move because our servers were breaking regularly.” Enough server breakdowns can erode trust in data, tools, and practices. These and other Guardianship-related challenges turn many companies to the cloud to add greater functionality and security to their IT systems.

In terms of how cloud services support Access & Transparency, it’s largely a matter of scale. IDC found that the most-reported “trigger event” that leads to public cloud migration occurs when, to cite its survey, “data has grown beyond the capacity of our existing systems.” Concerns about scalability and security with its on-premises infrastructure are what drove Avis Budget Group to build its next-generation transportation platform on Amazon Web Services (AWS). Expanding upon the AWS connected vehicle solution framework, Slalom helped Avis develop a machine-learning-powered optimization engine that addresses the overutilization and underutilization of cars in real time. Avis estimates that optimizing car mileage across its fleets will save the company tens of millions of dollars. The insights from the new engine will affect how work is done at every level of the organization, which is also a prime example of Ways of Working and embedding insights into everything you do.

According to Christopher Cerruto, the vice president of global architecture and analytics at Avis, “By building on AWS, we’re able to begin realizing our vision of building a full transportation platform at a pace that’s 10 times faster than what we had imagined.”

Digital Transformation and Bandura’s Other Theory

Reflecting on the progress of the Avis platform, Cerruto says, “You feel, for the first time, like you are limitless.” That’s the feeling made possible by a Modern Culture of Data. It also evokes another concept from Bandura’s body of work: “guided mastery.”

Guided mastery is the deliberate journey from “limited” to “limitless.” Bandura’s most famous experiment with guided mastery eases people with lifelong snake phobias through a five-step process of overcoming their fears. In one step, participants watch someone else touch a snake (and live to tell the story). They then proceed to touch the snake themselves while wearing heavy leather gloves. Stanford professor David Kelley, who won the National Academy of Engineering’s Gordon Prize in 2020, says in a TED Talk that Bandura once described to him how some participants even ended up marveling out loud at the beauty of the snakes as they held them in their laps.

Bandura attributes the success of the experiment to the increase in confidence that each step affords. Belief in one’s ability to navigate prospective situations is what Bandura calls “self-efficacy” and what Kelley calls “creative confidence.” And it’s not just about snakes. Kelley won the Gordon Prize for “almost single-handedly” transforming the way that engineers are educated.

Self-efficacy and the process of guided mastery form the basis upon which Slalom and AWS created a joint approach to digital transformation, one that helps propel customers forward into the futures they’re envisioning as individuals, teams, and organizations. Digital transformation is both inextricably linked to a Modern Culture of Data and enabled, accelerated, and elevated by cloud technology—if you know how to harness it.

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