Data and securityCouncils ‘need to do more to unlock full potential of data’

Councils ‘need to do more to unlock full potential of data’

Councils slowly developing in this area, but more work needed to ‘break silo working’ and maximise the benefits of the data they hold, says Auditor General for Wales.

A report published by the Auditor General for Wales argues that councils are slowly developing a strong data culture, but need to do more to unlock its full potential.

The report concludes that only a few local authorities have focused on building an environment to get the most from the data they hold – such as adopting a set of common standards; integrating management systems; investing in data analytical skills and capacity and improving the range and coverage of personal data they collect with partners.

A clear vision and effective leadership help create the culture needed to maximise the use of data, but few local authorities have focused on building an environment to get the most from the data they hold, the report says.

Being smart and strategic in using data can bring many benefits – for local authorities and their partners; the communities they work in and the people they serve. It helps local authorities to make better use of their resources; make better and quicker decisions; and it strengthens governance and accountability.

The report assesses the levels of ‘data maturity’ in local government across areas including leadership; integrated customer data; data-driven decisions and open data and concludes that most authorities have a long way to improve.

The report also includes some good practice case studies from across Wales and England where organisations and projects are using data effectively.

Improvements

The report, which can be read in full here, makes a number of recommendations for improvement broken down across four sections:

The importance of creating a strong data culture and clear leadership to make better use of data.

  • Have a clear vision that treats data as a key resource
  • Establish corporate data standards and coding that all services use for their core data
  • Undertake an audit to determine what data is held by services and identify any duplicated records and information requests
  • Create a central integrated customer account as a gateway to services.

The need to share data with partners to ensure citizens receive efficient and effective services.

  • Provide refresher training to service managers to ensure they know when and what data they can and cannot share
  • Review and update data sharing protocols to ensure they support services to deliver their data sharing responsibilities.

Adequate resources and sufficient capacity are ongoing challenges.

  • Identify staff who have a role in analysing and managing data to remove duplication and free up resources to build and develop capacity in data usage
  • Invest and support the development of staff data analytical, mining and segmentation skills.

Authorities have more to do to create a data-driven decision-making culture and to unlock the potential of the data they hold.

  • Set data reporting standards to ensure minimum data standards underpin decision making
  • Make more open data available.

unlock full potential of data

Auditor General, Adrian Crompton said: “It’s really important that local government starts to create a culture where elected members, senior officers and front-line staff think about and use data differently. This report identifies the key steps that can be taken to create a data-driven environment – focusing on clear leadership; strong vision and breaking silo working. It highlights examples of organisations who use their data effectively, and I hope that focusing on good practice will see authorities in Wales upping their game.”

The report adds that being smart and strategic in using data brings many benefits for local authorities, their partners, the communities they work in and the citizens they serve. Making better use of data supports authorities to take better and quicker decisions. It also allows authorities to make best use of resources by identifying waste and inefficiency, and thus increasing productivity. Most importantly, maximising use of data is good for democracy because it strengthens governance and accountability.

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