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Foundation Education Group’s Data Exec Evaluates Data’s Evolution and Exciting Future

Ahead of CDAO Brisbane, Ross Gundry, Group Head of Data Analytics for Foundation Education Group, shares his thoughts on the evolution of analytics and what will propel organisations forward in the era of data with Corinium’s Vanessa Jalleh


The data and analytics trajectory has certainly been an interesting one. While data has been a part of businesses for decades, it has in more recent times come to the forefront of business, and is now playing a key role in delivering business outcomes and cost-savings strategies.

Ross Gundry, Group Head of Data Analytics for Foundation Education Group says now is the time for data and analytics to shine.

“We’re in a golden era for data and analytics with organisations that were previously unable to participate in advanced analytics benefiting as these skills and specialist software become more mainstream and affordable. My career began in quantitative analytics writing code to process large (for that era) and disparate datasets through mathematical models,” he says.

“The same capabilities that took us months to deliver are freely available as downloadable libraries for anyone starting out, and with growing volumes of public datasets online the biggest barriers to getting started have been removed.”

The challenge organisations face now is the appropriate use of data as a strategy corporate asset, especially in a world where data breaches and regulatory oversight are becoming increasingly common. 

Gundry cautions that getting caught up in the excitement of mining existing and otherwise passive datasets for actionable insights can be dangerous for those with developing levels of data literacy. 

“Analysis performed on incorrectly prepared, low-quality, or biased data will result misleading insights and wrong decisions. Activities that store or process data away from the user’s device risk interception by cybercriminals, or breaches of data residency or data sovereignty requirements,” he says. 

“These challenges aren’t unique to those with emerging data capabilities; all organisations need to invest in appropriate levels of data management and governance to ensure that their staff are able to use data to its best and fullest potential without undue risk.”

Literacy and Breaches

Investment in data literacy management and governance early in a data maturity journey will help reduce the impact of these challenges. However, Gundry highlights it is never too late to make improvements when facing data challenges. 

“Creating a common language around data removes friction from knowledge sharing. In data mature organisations this takes the form of a managed master data, a data dictionary, and business glossary. In less mature organisations it could be as simple as disambiguating what ’The Data Team’ actually means, and where roles and responsibilities lie: the skills and day-to-day tasks of a database administrator differ wildly from a machine-learning engineer, or a business intelligence analyst,” he says.

“Data accessibility can be a major barrier. Staff who are authorised to access a certain dataset cannot do so in a way that suits them and end up maintaining an offline copy that someone created for them, which inevitably leads to inconsistencies in analysis and preventable rework. In extreme cases, data containing commercially sensitive, or personally identifiable customer data is stored outside of security controls, increasing the risk of a reportable data breach.”

Gundry stresses that knowing your customer is a vital part of delivering positive business outcomes through data.

“An effective data leader in 2024 and beyond is one who understands not just who their customers are, but how they operate and what outcomes they’re aiming to achieve; successful organisations will be those that turn this knowledge into user-friendly data products that allow data to be used as a strategic corporate asset,” he says.



Establishing Culture

When asked if culture can be the driving force behind a fully data-driven organisation, Gundry believes that it could be, but it cannot be taken lightly and will need long-term care and investment. 

“Cultural change is a movement, not a mandate. An organisation cannot simply flick a switch to become data driven, there must be a sustained investment in establishing new behaviours and approaches,” he says.

“Understanding the motivation for change, how the benefits of the change will be identified and measured, and the positive impact that’s expected for the staff are key to any organisational change to be effective.

“Change doesn’t need to be dramatic to be effective. Agreeing in your team which system you will use for a certain type of data removes internal inconsistencies. 

“Adding one new record each day to a data dictionary you create in a team wiki is better than not having a dictionary at all. Adding a glossary page to a new BI dashboard makes it easier for users to use and interpret.” 

When applied consistently, Gundry notes that grassroots initiatives evolve to become the standards your teams demand of one another.


When asked about any interesting news articles or features that are worth highlighting to the data, AI and analytics community, Gundry mentioned that there has been one article that has been incredibly valuable.

“I bookmarked this article in 2021 and it’s as relevant today as it was then: Making Every Data Minute Count. Approximately 1 in 11 minutes of company time is estimated to be spent performing data tasks inefficiently. I ran a survey among leaders at my organisation about their teams’ experiences with data tasks that suggested this is a reasonable approximation,” he says.

“When needing to quantify a business case for a data literacy campaign, the labour cost of this inefficiency works out to be about 9% of payroll.”

Here is Gundry’s go-to article: https://www.dataiq.global/reports/reports/making-every-data-minute-count 


Ross Gundry is speaking at CDAO Brisbane on the 27th and 28th of February. Register here to attend.