Data transformation is crucial to the success of 21st century government. Rapid advances in technology and analytical tools mean we can now gather, process and share data in massive quantities – and at previously unimaginable speed – to make better decisions and improve public services. The coronavirus pandemic is causing unprecedented pressure on public services, so now more than ever public sector bodies have the imperative – and in fact a golden opportunity – to truly accelerate digital transformation. But they need to get their data strategy right, and quickly. Despite the abundant opportunities to apply data analytics to improve outcomes, public sector bodies get bogged down in significant organisational challenges when implementing data transformation projects. Often these obstacles are rooted in a combination of technical and cultural factors. How do you overcome these obstacles and apply data analytics effectively in your organisation?
First, it’s important to remember data transformation challenges are not unique to the public sector – but there are unique considerations to bear in mind. Target outcomes can be more complex and nuanced, resources more constrained and the duty of care more stringent for public data. The data engineering practices and processes within public sector bodies must take into account all these considerations. That said, we work with clients on data engineering projects in both the private and public sectors and see similar organisational challenges on a regular basis.
For data engineering to be successful within an organisation it must overcome technical and cultural barriers that often scupper delivery. The good news is there’s one approach that’s extremely well suited to this type of challenge – Agile. By breaking technical tasks down into short phases of work, and continuously assessing and adapting activity, Agile approaches are, in part, specifically designed to enable organisations to succeed in dynamic, complex and unpredictable environments. The approach is truly results-focussed as it helps teams identify and deliver quick wins whilst also planning and implementing longer term outcomes. It’s an approach which explicitly encourages those closest to a problem to play a key role in solving it. This in turn ensures the correct domain knowledge is harnessed when problem solving and that solutions are truly fit for purpose on the ground and likely to gain maximum user adoption.
Public sector organisations are under intense pressure to enhance services, improve outcomes and step up efficiencies. This is despite significant resource constraints and the unique organisational complexity and volatility caused by the coronavirus crisis. Data is crucial to make a tangible difference to the processes and outcomes of public sector bodies. Only pragmatic, flexible and results-oriented approaches like Agile can help them apply analytics to decision making in a way that’s cost-efficient and delivers real impact in service provision. The public sector is at the start of this journey – but applying Agile approaches can greatly accelerate the way ahead.
James Fraser is Public Sector Director, at Digiterre.