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Technology is growing to make it easier for public sector bodies to build robust analytics capability, writes Chris Howarth, local government lead at Alteryx
There is now widespread recognition of the value of data analytics in the effort to deliver services for the public good, but also of the public sector’s struggle to attract people with the necessary skills.
This is a highly competitive market in which the industry cannot match the salaries of many commercial enterprises, especially when it comes to getting into the more complex field of data science.
But there is a way to solve the problem – which a number of organizations are now exploring – by leveraging a low-code software platform to create a robust analytics capability.
This was one of the main topics to emerge from a recent UKA Live discussion on the value of public sector data, hosted with Alteryx and involving Pam Colby, Senior Head of Policy, Performance and Research at North Tyneside Council, Dr Johanne Parker, information and intelligence director Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council, and Salman Klar, director of insight and analysis for Richmond and Wandsworth councils.
This has highlighted the fact that analytics in public services can not only make a positive difference in people’s lives, but has actually saved lives in areas such as public health and safety. This became apparent to many during the Covid-19 pandemic, during which scans were used to identify vulnerable individuals and groups and ensure that boards, NHS bodies and community groups coordinated their support more effectively. .
There has been a great example of this in Stockton-on-Tees, where the council has developed a vulnerable children database which brings together data from different sources and enables senior officials to identify factors and locations in targeting resources to keep children safe. It also developed a community safety dashboard to help its officials respond to antisocial behavior in the borough.
As organizations work to develop such resources, they have an option that proves the case in the form of the Alteryx Analytics automation platform.
It includes a wide range of predefined tools for processes such as data access, ETL (extract, transform, load) to copy, combine and convert data from different sources and formats, adding geospatial data and l automation of machine learning functions. – all with the code already written. This allows an organization to create a workflow for sharing and analyzing data through platform setup, without the need for deep coding skills.
It can be used for any type of data from any source and for exporting it to visualization tools such as Microsoft Power BI and Tableau, laying the foundation for a wide range of analysis and application of data science. This addresses one of the main challenges in data analysis and contributes to an intelligent and evidence-based approach to policy-making and to achieving better results for the organization and the public.
Ease of analysis
The discussion highlighted the benefits of such a platform. One is to make it easier to perform business intelligence analytics, taking it into areas that were previously too difficult, without a big investment in new data science skills.
This can give an organization a new option to develop skills internally. Johanne Parker said Stockton-on-Tees encourages people across different teams to use Alteryx’s analytics platform and tools, bringing their understanding of relevant services to the process and building their skills.
Similarly, Pam Colby said she encouraged North Tyneside to step up internal recruitment, urging bright people in lower-level jobs to develop their abilities and take on apprentices to develop into relevant roles.
This can help build analytical capacity more quickly, providing insights that lead to significant cost savings and better services, and contribute to policy development to address key long-term challenges related to demographic change. , environmental sustainability, clean energy and mobility as such. service.
Of course, there are issues that need to be addressed, such as ensuring compliance with data protection law. Salman Klar said it was advisable to train analysts to understand the General Data Protection Regulation and that a data controller should be able to see the end-to-end process in its use.
Business Case Challenge
Developing a business case for the investment can be a challenge. The main driver is often the search for cost savings – something Alteryx emphasizes early on in its conversations with customers – but there is often a killer use case tied to a specific service. This could be in an area like child protection or identifying vulnerable adults, or in reducing fraud.
The priority is to identify a problem that is causing difficulty for the organization and show how the platform can be used to find a solution.
All of this is based on the need to maintain a clear vision of the purpose of the use of data and good practices in their collection, storage and processing, so that they are kept securely and deleted when they are not more needed.
Combining these factors with the capabilities of the Alteryx platform can smooth the path to strong analytics capability for a public sector organization and do much for the cause of using data for the public good.