Published: 14 May 2021

Reading time: About 4 minutes

In 2019 the UK Government published its National Data Strategy in order to support the UK to build a world-leading data economy.

Data is now widely acknowledged as the number one asset for public sector organisations wishing to drive benefit for citizens. But there are many challenges, including the understanding of data, data quality and data standards.

At the recent Think Data for Government conference in May 2021, our Head of Product Strategy Paul Hudson took part in an informative panel session on why data, not technology, needs to be the focal point of any Digital Transformation program.

Here’s a quick roundup of some of our top takeaways from the educational group session:

Data silos can have negative impacts on decision-making and data value

“The challenges around data siloes often opens up the realisation that, within the business, quite often data is being acquired for a particular purpose, but on some occasions, it’s been acquired more than once.  So that can lead to multiple versions and a lack of mastery over the data.

It’s not until you start to look across all the different disciplines, across the business, and doing that discovery about what data the users are using, and how they are treating it, you realise there are a lot of savings in there. When you also think about the historical impact of decision-making around using some of this data, there are a lot of improvements which can be made.

One of the big challenges of transformation and data democratisation is that when you start to open up data and allowing greater use of that, you have to make sure you have those good practices and processes in place to prevent even more silos occurring. It’s the challenge of different platforms growing over time to serve a need, but without the bigger picture and bigger vision. It’s amazing the impact it can have on an organisation when they release that being a lot more focused around data, they’re going to get a lot more value and save a lot of pain as well!”

Paul Hudson, Automated Intelligence

Data has to have a purpose, especially in the new cloud world where data is accessible

“Being open and transparent helps- that means saying to users that that data has to be published as open data, and you have to make a case not to publish it. For us, this made people very aware as to what it was, why they were collecting it, what was the quality of it, was it fit for purpose? Shining a light on it helped a lot. We try to be open to other people’s data as well; you will not collect more data unless you can prove that it doesn’t really exist. We can use and reuse data already collected. It’s a healthy challenge for people.”

Julie Pearce, Food Standards Agency

Data usage needs to be part of the organisational culture

“People tend to give up on collaborative practices including data sharing because it’s harder than doing your own thing but ultimately, holistically, it’s bad for the organisation. So, data governance, and how we mange people’s behaviour around data, is incredibly important. There’s no point in creating these rules that people then try and get around; you want to create platforms that people actually use. It’s difficult to do and that is why it has to be at board level. It has to be part of organisational design. If your organisation is left to fend for itself and organically develop, then you’re going to have data silos. People will naturally want to hold on to things that they have invested a lot of time in and collected.”

Edafe Onerhime, Data Consultant

In order to manage cultural change, users need to learn from best practice

“Having that catalogue of positive examples that show the real benefits of working in this way is one of the things that has been lacking in government. If we’re talking about building culture, one of things that is hard to explain is why it is important, demonstrating why this was such a good thing. If you get this right, you are going to design and deliver better services for people, so it’s about making sure you have those good use cases there.”

Natalie Byrom, The Legal Education Foundation

For more information on how your organisation can open up its data to users and what needs to happen for that to be managed and governed effectively in the cloud, contact us in the form below and we can discuss your data transformation requirements.


Written by Sarah McCurdy

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