Business analytics in the public sector: digitising local governments

Business Analytics in the Public Sector

06 Mar Business analytics in the public sector: digitising local governments

Big Data saw its rise to enterprise prominence through 2012 to 2014, rapidly gaining exposure and the attention of companies the world over. While the initial buzz may have subsided, the quantity of data we are generating is continuing to grow. Today, we generate roughly 2.5 exabytes of data every day. If you’re not sure exactly how much an exabyte is, the prefix exa- means one billion billion, or 1018. Still hard to quantify? Imagine every single person on the planet receiving 336 gigabytes of data every day – and this was back in 2015.

So how do we – or in particular, the public sector – begin to manage all this data? is now home to over 10,000 data sets, offering a window into many aspects of government policies and activity. This goes alongside open data published by local authorities and other public sector bodies. There are plenty of examples of how insight into government data has resulted in societal benefits. In 2004, Sir Bruce Keogh – Britain’s leading cardiac surgeon at the time and medical director of the NHS – brought large-scale information on best practice on cardiac surgery after persuading 240 of his peers to publish their mortality rates. Over the following years, mortality rates fell by 22%.

There is a clamouring for more of this ‘open’ data across the public sector as a whole, believing freely-accessible data to be at the head of economic growth and innovation. However, the data is only as good as what you can do with it – it has to be comprehensible and actionable for users to make use of it.

Local governments and data analytics

Digital technologies such as business intelligence and data visualization offer local government a real opportunity to reinvent their services, providing tools to glean insight regarding the citizens they interact with and serve. A council that embraces digital working can better engage with residents and communities, achieve widespread communication across the workforce and save on costs. This being said, the realisation of these benefits has not seen large-scale penetration, and as such implementation has struggled somewhat.

The 2016 edition of professional services firm PWC’s annual report – The Local State We’re Insurveyed local authority chief executives and leaders across the UK to explore how councils are dealing with the changing state of business. The report found 76% of executives agree that they are embracing the opportunities new technologies are posing to them – an increase from 60% in 2015. The issue, however, is a gap between the opinions of executives and the public: only 23% of the latter agree that their council is taking modern digital measures – a decrease from 28% in 2015. So, why do the public believe that local governments could be doing more from a technological standpoint, when internally governments are generally content with their digital situation?

The public data deals with significant amounts of data on a daily basis – both open and internal. And yet, the process of consolidating and gaining insight from this data is lacking. Further analysis from the PWC report shows that while 91% of MDs and leaders are confident in their analytical capabilities, a much lower proportion are using data analytics to actually inform decision-making and strategy – just 41%, in fact. This disparity may prove a contributing factor between governments believing they are utilising digital technologies, and the public seeing any evidence of this.

Finding a solution

One of the newer additions to the Office 365 suite, PowerBI is Microsoft’s business analytics tool which is used to drive insight from the analysis of data. PowerBI is available on the web, desktop and mobile, as well as offering SQL Server Analysis and embedding services. Businesses can make use of the tool on a small or large scale, and can do so for free.

Due to the growing popularity of data visualization, BI tools are in ample supply. Building on its mobility and flexibility, Microsoft’s PowerBI offers a number of features that set it apart from its competition:

  • There are a number of pre-built, out-of-the-box dashboards for services such as Salesforce, Google Analytics, Dynamics and more.
  • Create content packs, including dashboards, reports and datasets that provide users with their own personalized view of their business metrics.
  • Multiple sources such as Excel spreadsheets, cloud services, on-premises databases and data streams can all be used with the tool.
  • PowerBI uses an innovative search method for finding what you need – a Q&A format allows users to ask natural questions and get the answer in the form of a visualization.
  • Touch-enabled native apps for iOS, Android and Windows Phone prevents your physical location from being a barrier between you and your data.

PowerBI offers the public sector a free solution that makes data analysis manageable and meaningful, allowing you to do more with your data.

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About the author
Philippa Ritchie

Phillippa Ritchie, ProSci®, MCP, MCTS, CSM, P-TSP, has 10 years of SharePoint and 6 years of Office 365 Consultancy experience and thrives on providing clients with solutions that make their lives better. She’s worked with clients across all verticals and loves learning about new businesses during the initial phases of an implementation. Phillippa joined CPS in October 2013 and is frequently found at Microsoft making use of her P-TSP status.

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