Data Maturity in Local Government

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On 6th December 2018 the Welsh Audit Office published their findings on their review into, ‘The maturity of local government in use of data’.

This report gives a detailed but also very clear picture of the thinking, approach and level of capability in the management and use of data in Welsh Local Authorities to deliver against the challenges and opportunities they face. On reading it two key reflections presented themselves to the team at itelligent-i:

  1. The issues highlighted are not exclusive to Wales, nor even Local Government, data maturity is still low in most complex organisations…
  1. …and the issues align to those itelligent-i identified as the barriers to overcome to become a data-driven organisation. Our information strategy methodology was designed from the outset to overcome these challenges in Councils and has been successfully deployed to deliver significant gains in the use of data and analytics for a number of leading local authorities.

We know that for any established complex organisation like a local authority to become data driven, a significant investment is very likely to be required. While that investment must be tailored to local needs, it will always have to be effectively balanced between people, process and technology. Our information strategy methodology is designed around best data practice in this holistic way, it has also been refined through repeated, successful delivery in Local Government. Having deployed this methodology in review, design and delivery of major data and analytics programmes across a range of large County and Unitary Councils in England and Wales, we absolutely concur with the findings of the Welsh Audit office and our findings in England would suggest there is no difference either side of the Severn.

The low levels of data leadership, mis-matched alignment of data and analytics to strategic commitments, siloed working and investment in data, patchy data management and missing analytical capability in terms of tools and talent is something we see time and again. We do see capability, talent and good data practice but always in pockets, never across an entire Local Authority. Positively we have seen a definite shift in Local Government’s perception of the problem in the last 2 years. Executives in councils are talking about Data at a more strategic level, they seem to understand this is not a technology issue alone and are more willing to be honest about data maturity in the sector and do something about it.

Our research into best data practice highlights that in nearly all sectors large complex organisations struggle to manage data as a real asset and bring all the data they have together efficiently, effectively and securely. Low levels of data maturity are still prevalent in retail, utilities, health, insurance, leisure and a range of other sectors.

Importantly for our customers our information strategy methodology offers a way forward against all the challenges facing them. The opportunities facing a truly data-driven Council are huge for the organisation and the people and place it serves. Through the right investment in an enterprise level data platform like our MS Azure based iBAP Councils can come move quickly to the cutting edge of cloud-based data sharing, great analytics and digital transformation. Our approach is always to quickly back the investment in technology with investment in people and process to enable aligned, efficient and secure data practice that can continuously improve and, in turn grow the data asset of the Council which, is a hugely valuable public asset the Council is merely the guardian of.

At itelligent-i we are unique in our deep understanding of Local Government strategy and operations combined with the latest data-driven design and practice expertise. We can not only quickly help any Council assess where they are but also identify an all-encompassing way forward and support moving immediately into a data-driven transformation.

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