Council Data Analytics – What’s holding back investment?

According to TechTarget, ‘Data Analytics’ is the science of examining raw data with the purpose of drawing conclusions about that information. The private sector have been fully harnessing this for a number of years now to gain competitive advantage, enabling them to make more informed decisions for strategic gain.

Similarly, a wealth of data is held by Local Authorities, which when properly analysed can help revolutionise the way they operate. However adoption of these types of solutions within UK Authorities has been generally slow – Why?

Historically there has been the perception that investment in data analytics solutions is cost prohibitive and only available to larger organisations with bigger budgets. This is no longer the case, we have moved well beyond the early adopter stage with a plethora of new start-ups providing their own niche area of expertise. For example data analytics solutions can be acquired for social media platforms, customer contact and even debt collection. Furthermore emerging technology firms carry a fraction of the overheads of larger firms. This has led, not only to costs being driven down, but a new breed of tech supplier who can move with agility and flexibility to customise solutions to suit specific needs across different market sectors.

Data security
One of the most common barriers cited by Authorities when it comes to new technology investments is the issues associated with data security and giving third parties access to data. IT departments within Local Authorities are quite rightly rigorous in their protocols and this approach is obviously paying off as a recent report noted that Council data breaches had fallen by 20% between 2014 and 2016. Most suppliers are pretty much switched onto this now and tend to have at least the same level of security standards in place as their clients if not higher. Increasingly we are also seeing the use of information sharing agreements by Authorities so that all parties understand their obligations and can comply with them accordingly. The introduction of the new General Data Protection Regulation, coming into force in May 2018 will also see some comprehensive evaluations being carried out by suppliers to ensure data security meets these latest set of requirements.

Another consideration is the general lack of investment in people with the right skills to be able to analyse the data and draw the right conclusions. This is touched upon in both the Governments ‘Seizing the Data Opportunity’ report and the NGLN Think Tanks report on ‘Demystifying Data’. Whilst there are no quick and easy answers there have been calls for a new type of local government worker that possesses a mix of specialist business and data skills. Some Authorities have shown real initiative in this area by seconding their staff out to private sector organisations on mentoring programmes so that they can learn new skills in this area and bring them back in-house when complete, to share.

As Local Authorities are pared down to the resourcing bone to help meet ever demanding calls for budget cuts, many Councils are finding IT resources stretched to the limit, impacting the amount of project roll outs and new initiatives being launched. The business user who shouts loudest tends to get priority as others are forced to wait months or even years before their project is considered. The key here is once having identified the type of solution required, to work out what support can be provided by the supplier to help minimise additional and undue workload being placed on your IT team.

‘It’s not a priority’ is a common response for lack of investment in council data analytics technology. What does tend to be a priority is; driving down costs, increasing revenue and optimising processes. As all of our own Local Authority customers can attest to; investment in the right council data analytics technology provides all of this. Costs are driven down through the automation of gathering and reporting on key management information. Revenues are increased by collectively identifying biggest debtors and which cases are on hold requiring re-investigation to minimise the amount of write-offs. Processes are optimised by being able to identify how long they take and where cases are falling through the gaps.

Many of the reasons cited in the past for not investing in council data analytics are increasingly irrelevant as circumstances change and technology moves forward. It is a much more viable option as Councils are urged to reduce costs, increase revenues and become more commercially savvy to meet these objectives.

Check out some of our case studies highlighting how our own customers have harnessed the power of data analytics and the benefits its now delivering for them.

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