Local Government

Get Ready for the Data Revolution
Get Ready for the Data Revolution 855 590 Anthony Peake

Real-time data transforms lives. It allows people to make decisions based on reality. And it allows organisations to be more effective and efficient in everything they do.

When it comes to some of the most vital services in society – social care, education, bin collections, looking after the vulnerable – we are still not realising the true potential of data. Although a new study carried out by Software Solved highlights this very fact, I do believe we are on the verge of a real-time data revolution across local government.

We surveyed 38 unitary, city, county and district councils across England and the findings are revealing. You can get your copy of the Local Government Data Revolution Report here https://www.softwaresolved.com/localgovdata

The survey, as covered by media including Local Gov News shows that 92% of councils say that it is important or very important to running improved, cost-effective, services, though just 19% admit that they are effective at using their data.

And in spite of disparate IT systems, departmental silos, lack of skills and tools being seen as barriers, 95% of local authorities have started or plan to invest in data visualisation in the next 12-18 months.

 

 

Change is happening, with 97% of local authorities recognising that improved data visualisation tools will be of value to their council, yet only 19% of councils feeling that they can easily access the data they hold today.

For many years the technology simply did not exist in a format that could readily be used by non-IT experts and internal barriers, such as departmental silos or the lack of skills and tools to make a real impact, were seen as too tough to tackle.

But data visualisation tools like Microsoft Power BI are now affordable, easy to use and incredibly powerful and you no longer need to be an expert in data and the outcome can be incredibly exciting – making real-time informed decisions becomes the new reality.

Working with the right partners there is now a way to harvest existing data, set up robust data warehousing and use simple data visualisation tools so that real-time data use becomes the norm rather than the exception.

The likes of Camden Council, Lancashire County Council, Leicestershire, Doncaster, South Hams and West Devon District Councils are shaping services, shifting resources, achieving savings to move towards a more democratic, informed, accurate and cost-effective way of running public services.

How can effective collaboration be an enabler for councils to deliver ‘best of breed’ digital platforms?
How can effective collaboration be an enabler for councils to deliver ‘best of breed’ digital platforms? 1000 666 Jon Hogg

Introduction

At LocalGovCamp18 in Birmingham we ran a session aimed at all local authority leaders who are struggling in the face of shrinking budgets, lack of resources, increasing costs and rising demand to deliver engaging online self-service solutions. We explored how collaborative approaches between multiple authorities could be the enabler for the development of ‘best of breed’ digital platforms.

 

In the session we looked at:

  • The opportunities a ‘best of breed’ platform offers in terms of effective and efficient service delivery and increased revenue generation
  • The potential cost advantages of taking a collaborative approach to developing a ‘best of breed’ platform
  • Reviewed some of the research conducted around delivering a collaborative online online services platform
  • Explored the opportunities, critical success factors and barriers to delivering a collaborative online services platform.

 

So what did we discover?

Knowing what they need to achieve

 

We started off by exploring with the group what they need to achieve to create effective collaboration as an enabler for councils to deliver ‘best of breed’ digital platforms.

 

Key points raised included:

  • Platform and forum would be required to facilitate the collaboration
  • Skills and expertise required to ensure effective collaboration
  • Buy-in is critical, both politically from members and from the officers
  • Should the private sector be involved in collaborations and if so how does that work?
  • Leadership from the very top is key to mandate that collaboration happens and then support its development by creating an enabling framework to support collaborations
  • Identifying commonalities that can be collaborated on, and this is not necessarily with your neighbour.
  • Funding – how will this work?

 

So plenty of challenges, with the 2 key ones being leadership and support from the top and having the skills and platform to support the collaboration.

 

Is the leadership challenge just a smoke screen used by staff, whose job it surely should be to make savings in their service areas by exploring new ways of working?

 

Whether this is or is not true, there is a perceived issue that collaborative initiatives rarely gain enough inertia. Is this a cultural issue? Should collaboration just be encouraged as viable alternative or does it require a more formal approach with councils developing collaboration processes and frameworks?

 

Understanding where they are now

To progress their goals, we 1st need to understand where they are currently positioned.  To achieve this we ran a SWOT exercise with them to define their key Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

 

Key points raised included:

 

Strengths Weaknesses
·         Subject matter expertise

·         Commitment to deliver

·         Existing partnerships

·         Data volume

·         Core services

·         Shared services agenda – towards provision

·         Staff empowerment – empower talented people

·         Resistance – what does this mean for me and my job?

·         Culture

·         Contracts (terms)

·         Commitments and arrangements

·         Openness and sharing (will to share)

·         Private sector costs/trust

·         Public sector culture (e.g. perceived competition/rivalry between councils)

Opportunities Threats
·         Leadership

·         Cost savings

·         Citizen satisfaction

·         Innovation

·         Talent management

·         Efficient services

·         Connectivity and better turn-key solutions

·         Funding crisis – creativity and partnerships

·         Central Government legislation

·         Political change (politics and temporary/changing agendas)

·         Legacy services/systems

·         Speed of change

·         Societal trends and habits

·         Superficial solutions for PR/political purposes

·         Keeping pace with technology

 

So plenty of opportunities identified where improvements in collaboration would make a real difference, link that with the strengths in commitment to deliver and empowering staff, then surely the wind of righteousness should be well behind the ship of positive collaboration?

 

But apparently not when you look at the key threats which tend to be external ones that the organisations have little control over, including biggies such as the political agenda and societal trends and habits.

 

So how can this all be wrapped together to create a harmonious environment where it is accepted to share from like minded organisations (public and private) to the benefit of everyone?

 

Defining what they have to do to accomplish their goals

So what key changes need to take place and barriers overcome to progress towards effective collaboration as an enabler for councils to deliver ‘best of breed’ digital platforms?

 

  • Currently happens on minor scale, often between neighbouring councils, so how can this be opened out?
  • Needs to be driven by leadership, who are currently seen as the constraint on collaboration
  • Often rivalries such as size, politics, demographic can be barriers, this needs to be overcome
  • There are mechanisms such as pipeline and MHCLG fund which encourage and facilitate improved collaboration, but how successful are they and how can they be improved?
  • Culturally, with councils collaboration needs to be seen as a viable go to option for solving problems, better service delivery and delivering operation efficiencies giving staff the permission and incentive to explore opportunities

In summary

So do the councils need a catalyst to help foster collaboration? It seems more likely that successful collaboration will happen if its proactively brokered than if its left to its current organic processes or gentle incentive. Is this a role for the Private Sector to take the lead to create this collaboration culture and supporting environment or should the Public Sector pick up the reigns and manage their destiny?

 

There is such a large opportunity to be proactive around mass collaboration before the Government makes it compulsory by further increasing the budget deficit, surely acting now is acting smart?