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Academy Xi Blog

Small businesses with big ambitions: successful Australian side hustles

By Academy Xi

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Everybody seems to be running a side hustle these days. If you’re contemplating setting up one of your own, it’s inspiring to remember that even the biggest companies started small. Here are the stories of three cash cow Australian businesses which, believe it or not, started as simple side hustles.

Whether it’s to generate another source of income, indulge a personal passion, or stay productive outside of work hours, everyone has their reasons for starting a side hustle.     

And why not? In this day and age, anyone can run a company from just about anywhere. All you need is a good business plan, a wifi connection, a bit of perseverance, and who knows – maybe you can turn your glimmering idea into a goldmine? 

It may sound like a long shot, but countless side hustles have transformed into industry leaders. We all know the legendary story of the hippified Steve Jobs and his coding buddy Steve Wozniak, who used their spare time to build prototypes for the Apple I in Jobs’ parents’ garage in the early 1970s. 

But how about Australian side hustles that have achieved big things? There are plenty of large Aussie companies that were built on a hunch about a new product, a burning desire to solve a nagging problem, and an aim to make some extra cash on the side. 

Here are three fascinating stories of lucrative Australian businesses that started out as small side hustles.

Boost Juice Bars

Janine Allis is the Founder and Managing Director of Boost Juice Bars and also the best-selling author of The Accidental Entrepreneur. Holidaying in the US in 1999, Allis spotted the queues of customers outside juice bars and decided to bring the business model to Australia. 

Allis opened her first Boost Juice Bar while she was on maternity leave in 2000, offering customers happy, healthy smoothies like Mango Magic and Banana Buzz in her first Adelaide store. Interviewed by the Sydney Morning Herald, Allis fondly recalls her down-to-earth ambition to start “a little business, work my own hours, probably part-time, and be a mum”.

How Boost Juice Bars made a splash

Allis immediately started building the Boost Juice Bars brand around exceptional customer service and strategic marketing, drawing on her career in PR and her husband’s extensive marketing experience. 

Allis took a hands-on approach to establishing the company’s reputation in the early days, personally answering every customer email (always within 24 hours!). At the same time, some snappy marketing stunts ensured that Boost Juice Bars went viral. “Name Days” saw customers given free smoothies when they came to the store and mentioned a name circulated on the company website. 

Allis opened more stores off the back of the first bar’s success, eventually implementing a franchising model. An inspired marketing campaign saw a franchise given away to a lucky winner, costing the company AU$200,000 but generating advertising estimated to be worth around AU$1 million. 

Just four years after she’d opened the doors of her first bar, Allis had opened 174 more throughout Australia. Boost Juice Bars has since gone global, with 580 stores in 14 more countries including the UK, Hong Kong, South Africa, Singapore and Thailand. In Australia alone, Boost Juice is now served in over 260 bars and flies off the shelves in supermarkets as one of the nation’s most loved juice and smoothie brands.

Allis has used the success of Boost Juice to build a food and beverage empire which includes Salsa’s Fresh Mex Grill, Cibo Espresso and Betty’s Burgers. The Sydney Morning Herald included Allis on its 30 richest self-made women in Australia list, recording her personal wealth at AU$66 million – not bad for somebody who started with one small juice bar in Adelaide!

Atlassian

Founded by Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar, Atlassian offers businesses tools and software for bug tracking and project management. Jira and Trello are Atlassian’s most popular products, often used by teams following the agile methodology who aim to deliver projects quickly with fewer headaches. 

Think of Atlassian as a tech firm for technologists, with its success built around functional, pragmatic software that makes everyday business activities more efficient. Atlassian software has become industry-standard, used by some of the world’s biggest companies, including NASA, Toyota, Airbnb and eBay. 

With an emphasis on synchronising online projects, it’s no surprise Atlassian enjoyed explosive growth throughout the Pandemic.

Atlassian total global revenue by year:

  • 2019: US$1.21 billion (37% annual increase)
  • 2020: US$1.61 billion (33% annual increase)
  • 2021: US$2.08 billion (29% annual increase)

*Source: Statista, 2021

Atlassian’s share market value broke the US$100 billion mark in September 2021, pushing the personal wealth of its Australian co-founders to $US23 billion each (AU$33 billion). Would you believe Cannon-Brookes and Farquhar funded one of Australia’s biggest tech enterprises with a credit card?

How Atlassian was built with $10,000

Cannon-Brookes and Farquhar met as computer science students at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. Keen to set up their own business, they started by building their own third-party support service.

While completing their own projects for the service, Cannon-Brookes and Farquhar were forced to acknowledge just how messy development work could be. They also knew first-hand that using email and personal productivity tools was a less than ideal way to collaborate and see across a project’s progress.

Initially, Cannon-Brookes and Farquhar built software on the side to track their own issues and bugs, while providing their teams with a synchronised workspace, but then had the lightbulb moment of realising it could be used by paying customers. Switching from offering a service to a product, they took out a $10,000 credit card and used it to fund Atlassian’s first offering, Jira.

Jira was a breakthrough product and Atlassian’s potential was clear from the beginning. Throughout the early years the founders turned down multiple offers from would-be buyers and investors, all of which fell drastically short of the business’s true value. This included an abruptly ended meeting when a potential US buyer realised that Atlassian was worth much more than his own company!

Atlassian’s rags-to-riches tale made mainstream news as the bootstrapped startup finally accepted its first ever injection of investment capital in 2010. Accel Partners poured US$60 million into development, which at the time was the US venture capital fund’s largest ever investment in a software company. 

Twelve years on and Atlassian has become a tech industry rockstar, but hasn’t lost sight of its founding principles. In true Aussie style, Atlassian’s no-nonsense company values still read:

  • Don’t #@!% the customer 
  • Play, as a team 
  • Be the change you seek  

Atlassian’s 20 year story proves patience is a virtue when it comes to scaling a company that’s going to have a lasting impact.

Canva

Canva is an Australian graphic design platform that’s used to make social media graphics, presentations, posters and other eye-catching visual assets. Canva offers a wide range of templates, meaning users can create customised graphic designs without needing to start from scratch, from splashy Instagram posts to elegant restaurant menus.  

Canva was founded in Australia by Melanie Perkins, Cliff Obrecht and Cameron Adams in January 2013. Canva had attracted over 750,000 users within a year of its launch, and now boasts a colossal 75 million users in over 190 countries

Though Canva is built around a “freemium” business model, the company makes money from monthly upgrade subscriptions, print products, course sales and marketplace fees. Currently, Canva has an eye-watering valuation of AU$55 million

You might be surprised to learn that Canva came from humble beginnings. Perkins and husband Obrecht were studying design together at the University of Perth and decided to supplement their income by offering high schools a simplified yearbook production process that used customisable design templates.

How Canva recreated graphic design

The success of their yearbook business inspired Perkins and Obrecht to make plans for a streamlined, user-friendly ‘one-stop-shop’ for anyone needing to carry out professional standard design work online.

A chance encounter at a university conference with renowned Silicon Valley investor Bill Tai saw Perkins invited to San Francisco to pitch the idea for Canva, where she started building a network of potential investors. 

In 2012, Canva finally received an initial investment of AU$1.5 million and its Perth office was opened that year. When Canva became oversubscribed within months of going live in 2013, the Australian Government matched the AU$1.5 million investment in a bid to keep one of the world’s most exciting tech startups on Aussie shores.

Following several rounds of further investment, including US$200 million in September 2021, the company’s value has skyrocketed. Canva is now: 

  • Worth US$40 billion (AU$54.5bn)
  • Three times more valuable than it was a year ago
  • Generating five times its revenue of two years ago

*Source: Startupdaily, 2021

Interviewed by CNBC and reminiscing over Canva’s modest beginnings, Perkins recalls “my mum’s living room became my office, and my boyfriend became my business partner. We just started by enabling schools to create their yearbooks really, really simply.”

Canva has now been adopted by designers globally and is considered one of the Australian tech industry’s unicorns, proving that finding a simple solution for a common problem really can be a recipe for success when it comes to building a thriving business.   

So there you have it – three HUGE Aussie businesses that started as small side hustles.

Inspired to start your own side hustle? 

If you’re thinking of getting your hustle on, it’s liberating to know that starting a small business is easier than you might think. For practical tips and tricks, read our full guide to setting up a successful side hustle.  

Reflecting on the determination it took to bring Apple to fruition, Steve Jobs observed “you have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out.” 

It’s crucial to accept that setting up a profitable side hustle isn’t an exact science. Sometimes the success of a small business is the result of hitting the market at the right time, sometimes it’s the product of persistent hard work, and normally there’s a little luck mixed in too.

One thing’s for sure – if you don’t put your side hustle idea to the test, you’ll never find out just how much of a hit it could be.

Academy Xi Blog

Going solo: A guide to freelancing

By Academy Xi

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Are you new to the world of freelancing? This blog will explain what freelance work is, its perks, and five freelance professions that allow you to reap the benefits of going solo.

Freedom – that glorious ability to do what you want, when you want, without too many external restrictions. In so many words, that’s what freelancing is all about.

Yet many of us live with the opposite – trapped in an office, confined to a desk, watching the clock hands slowly grind to 5:00pm. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way.

What is freelancing?

Freelancing is a form of self-employment, which entails delivering services on a per-job or per-task basis. Rather than being permanently employed by a single company, freelancing allows you to work for yourself and complete projects for a number of different businesses and clients.

In recent years, tech innovations and the improvement of remote work systems have broken down traditional employment structures. Businesses of every kind are now paying for the services of freelancers.

Far from being an employment niche, the stats indicate that freelancing is the future:

  • There are now 3.15 million freelancers in Australia (28% of the national workforce).
  • The freelance employment market is currently growing three times faster than the employment market as a whole.
There are approximately 1.1 billion freelancers in the world. This means around 31.4% of the world’s total workforce is freelance, and this number is expected to grow significantly in 2022 (Source: Thrivemyway)

How do businesses benefit from freelancers?

By supplementing core staff with freelancers, companies are able to:

  • Access a larger and more diverse talent pool than a permanent workforce offers.
  • Get the specialist skills they need just-in-time and complete projects with increased agility.
  • Spend more efficiently by accessing talent exactly when they need it.

What are the benefits of freelance work?

There are a number of benefits that come with striking it out alone as a freelancer. Some of the biggest perks include:

  • Choosing your clients
    As a freelancer you’ll have the unique ability to select the clients you work with. You might pick clients based on their brand image or stellar reputation, or because of a personal affinity with delivering a particular product or service.

  • Managing your workload
    Freelancing means you can manage your own workload and work as much or as little as you like. If you want to work full-time most of the year and only part-time during the summer months, you’ll have the flexibility to make that lifestyle a reality.

  • Following your passions
    Freelancing allows you to focus on the work you love without the distractions that come with a permanent contract (no more long commutes, office politics or meetings that hardly relate to what you do).

  • Working independently
    Freelancing means you’ll have the ability to work alone for long stretches of time (if you’re a people person, there’s always the opportunity to collaborate). Because freelancing is often remote, you can work anywhere wifi-connected.

  • Diversify your exposure
    Freelancing enables you to work on projects and with clients in a variety of industries, enabling you to broaden your horizons, diversify your professional exposure and build a unique CV.

What responsibilities come with being a freelancer?

As well as acknowledging the perks of freelancing, it’s important to understand the extra responsibilities.

As someone who’s self-employed, you’ll be responsible for:

  • Calculating and paying your own taxes. 
  • Funding your health insurance, pension and other personal contributions. 
  • Covering the lost income of holidays or being sick (it’s wise to put a little extra money aside, which will also support you when work proves hard to find).
Freelancer earnings statistics suggest there will be more freelancers in the tech domain soon (Source: Forbes)

Getting started as a freelancer is relatively simple. Essentially, a specialist skill-set + wifi = freelance capabilities. However, once your freelance operation is up and running, there are a few steps you’ll need to take to set yourself apart from the competition.  

You’ll need to build a professional portfolio that showcases your certifications, skills and examples of past work. Prospective clients will use your portfolio to assess the quality of your services and your suitability for a particular project. 

You’ll also need to create a brand and strategically build skills, work experience, a strong network and an online presence that helps you target a need among potential clients. 

If you want a steady supply of work, you’ll need to seek it out. There are a variety of portals that freelancers use to find work, including Upwork and Fiverr, which act as job marketplaces connecting businesses with specialists who are suitably skilled. 

There’s a wide range of specialist services that clients are searching for these days. To give you some food for thought, here are a five of the more popular options:

Freelance Digital Marketer

The internet and social media are crowded places where companies are striving to be seen and heard. A freelance digital marketer uses online platforms and digital tools to promote products and improve sales for their clients. Freelance digital marketers use various channels, including: 

  • Website content
  • Email
  • Social media marketing
  • Search engine marketing
  • Display advertising

Your goal as a freelance digital marketer is to help a company expand its brand awareness, increase conversions and ultimately grow as a business. All of this requires a razor-sharp strategic mindset. 

You’ll also need to be finance and budget savvy, data-driven, analytical, and a strong leader. Marketing is definitely a field where who you know is as important as what you know – so be prepared to network. 

To give yourself a headstart in a competitive industry, it’s wise to get a formal certification, as well as a portfolio demonstrating your real-world marketing experience. Academy Xi Digital Marketing courses give you all this and more, helping you develop the tactics and techniques needed to manage a digital marketing campaign from end-to-end.

Freelance Social Media Manager

With over 58% of the world’s population actively using social media, freelance social media managers plan, execute, filter and monitor the social media presence of a product, company or influential person. Some of the services this entails include:

  • Planning social media strategies
  • Creating content calendars and scheduling posts
  • Content creation – including photography, video and design
  • Copywriting – posts need to be short, snappy and attention grabbing
  • Community management – engaging with followers, answering DMs and replying to comments
  • Forecasting, analytics and reporting

Many social media managers have a formal certification. To be competitive, you might choose to get one too. Formal training will give you the practical skills and know-how needed to plan and execute an entire social media strategy.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, freelance hourly rates remained stable and as many as 17 percent of freelancers actually saw their business increase (Source: Payoneer)

Freelance Web Developer

Every business needs a website these days, and good freelance web developers are in high demand. Freelance web developers design and build websites using coding and software design tools. You’ll liaise with clients and normally receive a creative brief outlining the project’s content and style.

Establishing a web development specialisation will give you an advanced skill-set that clients are searching for. There are several areas you can specialise in as a web developer, these include: 

  • Back-end development – using code to communicate between an application, server and database.
  • Front-end development – turning that code into a visual website that users interact with. 
  • User experience – making the website intuitive and user-friendly.   
  • User interface – designing the look and style of a website. 

Most clients will require you to be able to use HTML, CSS and JavaScript at a minimum. As websites are rarely built in vacuums, web developers who possess an understanding of UI Design and SEO will find their services highly regarded. 

Academy Xi Front-End Web Development courses give you hands-on experience writing and maintaining user-facing code for user-friendly, responsive and easy-on-the-eye websites.

Freelance Graphic Designer

Freelance graphic designers work with clients to produce branded logos, illustrations and other visual collateral. As well as being highly creative, graphic designers are excellent problem solvers, using their designs to convey a brand’s identity and build an emotional connection with a target market. 

Graphic designers work with text and images, delivering designs for a variety of media, including:

  • Websites and apps
  • Social media
  • Print – magazines, pamphlets and brochures

By using computer applications and software, you’ll develop sketches and layouts that bring your ideas to life. A client might need to see a rough draft of any concepts you generate, so editing and revisions are a big part of the job.

Industry-standard graphic design software includes the Adobe suite – InDesign, Photoshop and/ or Illustrator, all of which you’ll likely need to be fluent in. As the field of digital design progresses, you’ll also need to incorporate emerging technologies and software innovations into your practice.

Freelance graphic designers need an attractive portfolio of work, as well as a certification demonstrating those hard-earned skills. Academy Xi Graphic Design courses offer you both, helping you to combine business objectives with creativity and put together a portfolio of eye-catching designs that resolve brand or user challenges.

It is estimated that by 2027 freelancers will constitute over 50% of the total US workforce with a growth rate of around 65% over the next five years (Source: Thrivemyway)

Freelance Writer

Freelance writers offer their services to different clients, working across a variety of platforms and topics.

Unlike writers employed by a single company, who must consistently maintain that company’s brand voice, freelance writers have the freedom to explore their own writing style and preferred subjects. However, it’s possible to find more freelance writing work by being adaptable enough to complete any brief a client assigns.

If you’re keen to go solo as a professional writer, there are a few simple steps to follow:

  • Choose your niche – picking what you want to write about and the platforms your writing will be published on is a crucial first step.
  • Develop specialist skills – there are courses offering formal training in creative writing, copywriting, social media communications and journalism, to name a few.  
  • Set up a website or blog that tells your professional story and houses samples of your best work.
  • Pitch yourself everywhere and regularly check writing job boards.
  • Collect testimonials from your clients – these are your most powerful form of marketing.
  • Stay up-to-date with the hottest topics in your subject areas – the key to keeping your writing relevant is lots of reading.

So there you have it – an introductory guide to becoming a freelancer!

Freelancing offers you the chance to escape that office cubicle and the regimented 9-5 regime. Instead, you can cherry-pick your projects, manage your own workload and personally mastermind a career that you’re truly passionate about.

If you back yourself, develop the right skills and go it alone, who knows where your career will take you? Remember – the best opportunities in life won’t just fall in your lap, you have to get out there and create them.

Need some help in upskilling in any of these in-demand skills? Speak to a course advisor today and take the first step in your journey with a course from Academy Xi!

Academy Xi Blog

The five essential data skills for non-data professionals

By Academy Xi

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Gone are the days of data being analysed, assessed, and applied only within the confines of I.T departments. Now, more than ever, senior management teams need to embrace data and view data skills as being a critical part of the foundation for employees’ professional knowledge across all departments.

Your people need data literacy to be able to handle data confidently and effectively. We aren’t talking complicated analysis concepts, but practical, hands-on skills that can be applied to daily tasks and projects.

Why?

Simply, data is power. It isn’t theoretical, or an opinion and if you equip your teams with the ability to understand how to use data meaningfully, they will grow within their roles and your organisation will reap the benefits.

We have identified five essential data skills for non-data professionals. While it is possible that some of these skills might already exist within your teams at varying levels, it’s important to note that this skill set is a journey, with each step building on the one before. The best results will be experienced when your people have a working understanding and ability to apply the full suite.

Let’s check them out:

Skill 1: Defining the problem

Why fumble around with guess work and opinions on how to tackle business problems when you likely have access to data that can point you in a direction that is more likely to result in a meaningful outcome?

Being able to translate a known or perceived business challenge into a data analysis problem offers individuals and teams the opportunity to set goals and scope solutions.

Once a problem has been clearly articulated and defined, it is possible to then plan how you can analyse datasets to arrive at helpful and actionable insights, which can reveal options for how to approach solutions.

Asking data-driven questions

Asking the right kind of questions is key to getting truly useful detail and insights from your data. You can have the most intricate IT infrastructure in your organisation, but it won’t generate insights of its own accord.

The more specific you can be with your questions, the higher the quality of results you will receive. For example, ‘How can product X generate us more money?’. This could be made more specific: ‘Which of our marketing efforts generated the highest return on investment this quarter, which we can modify to promote product X and in turn increase profits?’. Clarity is also key – what exactly are you wanting to find out?

Data analytics training provides teams with the tools for how to understand and define a problem as the first step, which is the foundation of any data analysis work.

Skill 2: Collecting data

The notion of collecting data can be intimidating to those who aren’t used to working with datasets, but the fact is, your teams are likely already collecting data and perhaps even using it.

What can data look like in non-data roles?

Your marketing team might have a thousand subscribers to a monthly email newsletter. The data behind these sign-ups could reveal several details about the demographic who engage with the content that could influence future marketing activity or be shared with other departments for their benefit. 

Within other departments, such as customer service teams, there is often an abundance of what is known as ‘behavioural data’ available and is one of the most common types of data. This can include purchase and transaction records, website use and internet search history.  

A recent study from Google revealed that a customer journey today can incorporate anywhere from 20 to 500 touch points. All touch points equate to data.

Why learn how to collect data?

When your teams understand why data is important and how it can benefit their outcomes and those of the wider organisation, giving them the ability to know how to collect it empowers them to create benefit. One important aspect of data collection is it can enable more personalised product and service delivery to customers.

Mckinsey research reveals that companies that use data to effectively personalise their product and service offering to customers generate 40% more revenue than those who don’t or do an average job of it. Furthermore, “71% of consumers expect companies to personalise interactions and three quarters will switch if they don’t like their experience”.

Empowering teams with the knowledge of how to collect data will enable them to:

  • measure and evaluate project outcomes
  • understand how to apply findings to create powerful marketing
  • personalise customer experiences
  • effectively encourage stakeholder buy-in
  • save time and increase productivity.

When individuals and teams are able to harness data effectively and perform these tasks, there is no way but up for your organisation.

Skill 3: Pulling insights from data

An insight report from McKinsey states that by 2025 ‘nearly all employees will naturally and regularly leverage data to support their work…they will be empowered to ask how innovative data techniques could resolve challenges in hours, days or weeks’ – McKinsey (2022)

By giving your teams access to training that will enable them to pull insights that are actionable from your company data, you’ll be preparing your workforce for what is to come in the next few years and keep your organisation ahead of the pack.

What is a data insight?

All too often, what are called ‘data insights’ can simply be more information. That’s not an insight. Let’s clearly define this.

  • Data = unprocessed facts (often numbers in a spreadsheet)
  • Information = prepared data, providing context and presented in a more human-friendly fashion (eg: dashboard, report, chart)
  • Insights = generated by analysing the information and drawing conclusions. 

 The combination of the data and the information can lead to the discovery of insights.

Why are data-driven insights important?

Fundamentally, insights achieve impact. By using data driven insights, you’re working from an evidence base, as opposed to preference, instinct, or assumption. Once analysed, the conclusions that can be drawn from data are a lot more powerful, accurate and effective.

Mckinsey Global Institute reports that data-driven companies report above market growth in the range of 15-25%. Their findings reveal that there are five levers that enable data-driven sales growth by using data insights.

This particular study focused on the benefits of data insights on sales growth, but it is highly likely that any department would benefit from applying data insights to achieve significant benefits.

McKinsey continues to reveal that data-driven businesses are 23 times more likely to gain customers, but additionally six times as likely to retain them and a whopping 19 times more likely to be profitable.

Benefits of your teams learning this skill:

  • They will know what an insight is and how to pull it from your company data
  • Ability to access meaningful insights to empower projects
  • Actively knowing how to use insights to influence and drive change
  • Evidence-based insights will be used, not instinct or assumption based.

By investing in training that provides the hard data skills and is tailored to suit the needs of your industry and organisation, your team will learn how to embed these abilities into the way they work daily.

An integral part of this learning will be how to apply data driven insights.

Skill 4: Visualising data

Once data has been collected and analysed, it can be represented visually to make it easier for conclusions to be made. It is ultimately an efficient way to deliver data so that meaningful discussion and decision making can take place.

Learning to visualise data is a useful skill for any industry and team. It’s an effective way to share information with stakeholders and to communicate a large data set efficiently.

Examples of visualisation methods include:

  • Heat maps
  • Tables and pie charts
  • Infographics
  • Scatter plots
  • Line charts.
Image source: Neil Patel, "How to use data visualisation"

Let’s be clear that visualising data isn’t simply making a spreadsheet into a colourful chart or graph. The power of presenting data in a visually appealing way, is ultimately to clearly communicate an idea. You might be outright declaring something with what you present or perhaps be planting a seed to encourage an exploration of an idea or a possibility, driven by the dataset.

Why learn how to visualise data?

  • Assists in clarifying ideas from datasets.
  • Makes concepts easier to comprehend and more memorable for stakeholders.
  • Assists in gaining insights into large amounts of dry data.
  • Helps to understand consumer behaviour.
  • Can aid in predicting volumes of sales.
  • Quickly pinpoint business areas that need improvement or more focus.
  • Promotes identification of relationships, patterns, trends, and opportunities
  • Reduces errors across the business.

When teams know how to visualise data, they will be able to support faster decision making, which will ultimately increase the productivity of your organisation and generate more profit. Don’t let your data go to waste. Give your people the power to bring it to life.

Skill 5: Crafting data driven stories

It’s clear to most teams that data isn’t impactful when it simply sits in a spreadsheet. By visualising the dataset, we bring it to life and when put in the context of a story, we increase the engagement and buy-in with whoever we are presenting the data to.

Increasingly, there are more sources of data available to companies and they are rapidly becoming larger and more complex datasets. Being able to distil the data through a story is a vital skill. 

By getting your teams trained in basic data analytics, they will be able to learn how to present datasets visually and within a storyline. You don’t need to be a degree qualified data analyst or Hollywood screenwriter to generate a compelling data narrative. 

Essential in your company marketing, storytelling can drive conversions and return on investment, but before that stage, it is also greatly useful in-house when presenting datasets.

 Why you should focus on data storytelling:

  • Storytelling brings data to life and makes it more memorable
  • You are more likely to engage stakeholders with story
  • Increase influence of strategic decision making
  • Stories can inspire and drive business change

The bottom line

Chances are that your organisation is sitting on a minefield of valuable data without even realising it. It’s also likely that your teams don’t know how to recognise and use data meaningfully, so it is disregarded in favour of other tasks that are known and familiar. 

Investing in a short training program in data analytics for your teams that is geared for practical application in any department, will provide people with the skills to: 

  • Identify different data types
  • Know how to collect data effectively
  • Understand data samples
  • Pull meaningful insights from data
  • Visualise data meaningfully
  • Communicate with data-driven storytelling

Combined, these skills will ramp up your organisation’s evidence-based decision making, planning and prioritisation. This equals a substantial leap in productivity and subsequent growth, both for individuals and your overall business.

Ready for a data-driven culture?

At Academy Xi we design and deliver tailored, work-ready upskilling and reskilling programs. We work with industry experts to ensure that organisations of all sizes are equipped with the latest knowledge and skills across design, tech and data, business, and marketing.

We offer a range of data training solutions to help you transform your workforce. These range from one or two-day workshops right through to highly-tailored data enablement programs designed to elevate the data capability of your entire organisation. We offer these in-person or online and are flexible in terms of delivery requirements and timeframes.

Contact us today to discuss how we can help you transform your organisation by teaching you how to maximise your data.

Academy Xi Blog

3 reasons your company needs digital leaders

By Academy Xi

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While digital transformation and disruption are not new concepts, the pandemic accelerated the need for any aspects of company processes that weren’t working optimally to be addressed. In many cases the issues were impossible to ignore. And we aren’t just talking about the technology sector – every industry is impacted by digital transformation and the pandemic has amplified it.

As companies require more sophisticated approaches to business to remain competitive, and technology continues to advance, the need for our workforce to be equipped to handle digitally based tasks is paramount and organisations are struggling to keep up.

Thankfully there is a solution that can be driven by senior leadership, which will provide crucial benefits to your company and people for the longer term.

Digital Leaders

If you want your business to thrive rather than simply survive through a digital transformation and you want to retain your people and see them empowered and engaged, then championing digital leaders within your company is vital.

In this article we’ll explore digital leadership and three reasons why your business needs to promote and support digital leaders:

  • What is a Digital Leader
  • Reason #1: Bridge the digital skills gap
  • Reason #2: Save Resources & Increase Productivity
  • Reason #3: Drive Engagement & Innovation

What is a Digital Leader?

It is important to keep in mind that the most impressive tech on the market won’t make a meaningful impact on the bottom line of your business or company culture, but the humans driving it will. In order for digital transformation to truly ‘stick’ in your company, there needs to be commitment from the very top of the organisation and they need to be 100% behind the digital leaders.

Empathetic, patient and forever learning and exploring opportunities to embrace new and emerging technology that can elevate your operation, digital leaders are entrepreneurs at heart. But the role is much more than scoping out new tech.

With a customer-centric focus, a digital leader will join the dots between strategy, culture, structure and technology and using data driven insights, create a vision for your organisation. They inspire individuals and teams by demonstrating the benefits of new ways of working and lead with a focus on desired outcomes.

Recent research completed by McKinsey reveals that digital leaders “appear to keep up a drumbeat in their businesses that can be four times faster, and twice as powerful, as those of their peers.”

Now is the time to begin identifying who would make great digital leaders in your company and here are the top three reasons your organisation needs them.

Reason #1: Bridge the Skills Gap

With 87% of jobs now requiring digital literacy skills, the capability gap is a very real concern for Australia’s workforce and the national government is supporting a range of initiatives to try and remedy the acute situation.

While the challenge of finding strong digital talent continues to be a struggle for HR teams and external recruiters alike, championing digital leaders within your organisation is a proactive step you can take to help transition your workforce and rise to meet the latest digital demands.

One of many workforce trends in 2021 was less of a focus on job roles and more on specific skills needed to give organisations a competitive edge. This trend will certainly continue into 2022 and beyond as company’s address skills shortages and disrupted business models. McKinsey’s quarterly research also supports this, with 53% of executives seeing reskilling their existing workforce as the most useful action to close capability gaps.

  • What is the digital leader’s role in this process?

Aligned with a data driven vision that reflects the needs of the customer and business strategy, digital leaders empower others by sharing their knowledge and skills and identifying and arranging appropriate training needs to increase capability across the company. 

Bolstered with new skills and awareness and understanding of the longer term strategy and where they fit, people are more open to embracing new ideas and change. This results in less trepidation, more confidence and can lead to higher rates of engagement and retention. 

  • Make digital maturity your aim 

Ideally, you want your company to reach digital maturity as a benchmark. This means you are able to respond and adapt to tech challenges and trends effectively as an entire business, and not deflect them to the I.T department. 

With technology continually developing, digital maturity is an ongoing process. While it isn’t something to tick off your hit list, you can still aim for a shared digital growth mindset across the organisation. Individuals across all teams in any industry have digital skill requirements and having the mindset to match is important. 

Digital leaders will support your teams to embrace this mindset and help your company get well on the way to digital maturity.

Reason #2: Save Resources & Increase Productivity

Digital transformation can improve efficiency in organisations by automating what were previously routine tasks. A study by the Hackett Group in the U.S found that administrative and functional labour costs were being reduced by the ‘digital world class’ by 29%.

Your digital leaders can drive transformation in your company to create such savings and reinvest them into tech and training for your existing teams. The outcomes can drive more impact, increase productivity and reduce budgets spent on recruiting consultants or contracting external partners. 

Time is also saved with digital leaders steering projects backed by data. Senior leadership recognise that data driven insights are clear indicators of which direction to take and this ultimately results in faster strategic decision making. This often means getting ideas through the gate and to market at pace.

Reason #3: Drive Engagement & Innovation

The main concepts of digital leadership need to be adopted at the top of an organisation for engagement and innovation to be able to trickle down through the entire business. 

Lead by example. An oldie, but a goodie. 

A report in the PwC Australia Rebooted series clearly emphasises that digital transformation isn’t about investing a large sum into new technology and thinking the job is done. The overarching culture and mindset of your organisation needs to be one of innovation, so that digital transformation exists at the core of your strategy and runs through the veins of what you do, as opposed to being a range of digital side projects.

Digital leadership is about overriding ‘Business As Usual’ thinking. It requires a high level of curiosity and asking a lot of questions of team members because when it comes to innovation, no one has all of the answers. As a result, this encourages engagement, with everyone’s experience and ideas contributing to forming new and creative approaches to old and expired ways of working.

Individuals and teams are enthusiastically encouraged by digital leaders to be fearless, step out of their comfort zones, to say yes to challenges and to seek out opportunities. 

When senior leadership empower digital leaders in their organisations to truly embrace their role, it can change the culture and outcomes of your company and ultimately put you ahead of the competition.

The Bottom Line

It isn’t a question of ‘if’ you should have digital leaders, but when. And the time is now.

Championing digital leaders to drive digital transformation and bridge the skills gap requires your business-model to be reinvented to enable all teams, departments and functions to work together in new ways. This can only occur with commitment from the top of your organisation. 

Taking a proactive role in addressing the digital skills gap in your business will empower individuals and ultimately benefit all stakeholders across your operation and positively impact your bottom line. Encouraging digital leadership within your ranks is a wise move in future proofing your company and keeping it ahead of the competition.

Ready to Put Your Company Ahead of the Digital Curve?

At Academy Xi, our mission is to optimise your organisation’s culture and performance through concise, actionable training in:

  • human-centred design
  • digital business
  • emerging technology.

Help your people thrive in new digital environments, instead of being left behind with training solutions for all staff levels, customised to meet the unique needs of your industry and organisation.

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