Unlocking the potential of data in the public sector

By Dan Thompson | 06 January 2021

Whether you agree that data is the ‘new oil’ or not, there’s no escaping the fact that it is crucial to the success of today’s public sector. Rapid digitalisation, accelerated during the recent pandemic, means organisations across the public sector are now collecting data in massive quantities and at previously unimaginable speed.

Data, and the insights that can be derived from it, gives organisations the ability to transform their services and the way they operate – and improve outcomes for citizens. By applying state-of the-art analytics to the data being collected day-in-day-out, evidence-based business decisions can be made. These improve both the efficiency and quality of services delivered, while encouraging an enterprise wide view of the business rather than the traditional siloed approach. Predictive, preventative decision making can also become reality.

Powering data-driven insights

There are multiple areas where data analytics can be invaluable. But how do organisations tap into the value of their data?

It’s important to consider how the data is currently stored. Is the data siloed or is there one single point of truth? Who needs access to it and how? Will central data locations improve this? What standardisation is needed across the organisation when it comes to creating a single point of truth? How will central data locations improve their business decisions?

Now that a cloud first strategy is being adopted by most local and regional government organisations, solutions are increasingly being devised and created in the cloud. And for good reason. Cloud enables existing data sets across the business to be funnelled and orchestrated into effective data analytics platforms that allows for data-driven insights. Only once you’ve got your data to the point where it’s migrated, orchestrated, cleansed, transformed and relocated can true business intelligence commence.

What’s more, this intelligence can unlock strategies that can be reused and shared across different local authorities. A modern cloud-based platform converts data into information and makes it readily available for analytical workloads and strong predictive outcomes. This provides opportunities to train the datasets and information stored in the data platform by applying machine learning and data science techniques

The crucial element with data analytics for the public sector is allying deep industry and sector knowledge with broad functional capabilities and a high degree of technical sophistication.?The data is all there. It just needs to be channelled, ingested and orchestrated to a central repository where it can be used intelligently.

It comes down to strategy…

Local authorities know their data the best. After all, they’re working with it week in, week out and within various teams with different organisations within that unit of a local authority. But only by driving understanding through a clear data strategy of what can be shared, and what can be distributed out from a central location, can they unlock the potential of that data.

Most local authorities have business intelligence departments already. They’ll have adult and child social care departments; they’ll have housing care departments. The issue is that they all work from siloed data and numerous applications. Data comes in multiple formats, most notably structured or unstructured. That’s why data strategies need to create a central repository, underpinned by cloud technology, where data can be ingested at speed. It also needs to involve collaboration internally, which allows the solution to be fully embraced. From that central point insight can be built up using algorithms to train the data, generating prescriptive outcomes, or predictive analysis using new business intelligence tool sets.

It’s about unlocking the potential, which fundamentally starts with not being scared and feeding those data sources into an environment that gives the local business intelligence teams, together with the local analysts, the ability to make the most of the clean data. It also gives them the opportunity to plug in the new cognitive, machine learning services, which empowers these data analysts to show the senior leadership teams or even their customers, how it can be used.

Only once you get to this point can the sheer power of data – and specifically data analytics – be truly transformative.

Dan Thompson is head of data services and engineering at Agilisys

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