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29th April 2020

Data sharing and protection – lessons to enable us to champion data

60% of local authorities cite frustrations with using and sharing data internally. How can they learn from the successes of others? Ross McIntosh of Civica MDM shares his experience.

Local authorities are doing an amazing job during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has created even more need to manage new sources of data from partner agencies to ensure vulnerable adults and children are supported as best as possible.

From my pre-lockdown discussions with local authorities, I’d noticed a curious trend emerging: approximately 60% of councils said their ability to use and share internal data effectively was being suffocated.

With COVID-19 driving the sharing of data between agencies like never before, I’d like to share some thoughts that could help. Some common factors seen in Local Authorities include:

  1. Data protection processes are governed by a single ‘authority’ in the organisation, whose role in finance or legal typically encourages them to be risk averse.
  2. Perceptions in mid-level managers and their employees around the need for being seen to be GDPR compliant
  3. There is no one responsible for the change/transformation agenda in the organisation who is a data champion, or understands data enough to be able to influence the ‘authority’.

Too often I hear from mid-level managers;

  • “We know knowledge is power but we lost our edge when we lost resources…”
  • We waste so much time looking for data…”

So there is a challenge: how do mid-level managers ensure their voice is heard by those that influence, to encourage internal data sharing have a positive interpretation of the guidelines applied?

The rise and rise of the data champion

The good news is that a growing movement of data champions do exist. So how do they encourage transformation leaders, heads of key services and executives that a change is needed to exploit their data for positive benefit? And how can we learn from their successes?

Driving financial savings

When departmental managers know their internal data is not fit for purpose, they may look to enrich it with external data for one off exercises. Ironically, putting in place appropriate data sharing agreements (e.g. PIAs) with these external parties. A data champion can identify if this data is really as good as the free information that can be gathered from departmental silos.

Thought – isn’t it worth exploring what the savings and benefits could be through improved enterprise-wide joining up of internal data?

Action – consider running a short (1-2 week) exercise to experience how quickly data quality can be improved… for good.

Driving service adoption and process improvement

Mid-level managers that understand data, but can’t influence strategy, are frustrated that resources get re-assigned, compounding their inability to exploit data. Examples of outcomes not realised are:

  • Adoption of citizens’ self-service as the service portfolio is incomplete or inaccurate
  • Keeping data accurate and up-to-date to enable services to be delivered more appropriately
  • Creating processes that are efficient and reliable for handling of SAR and FOI requests
  • Opportunities for automation of data management, so employees have the time to apply the results of trusted analytics and business insight.

Thought - Council leadership needs more awareness to create the desire to invest in understanding the value of good data quality and having a data strategy.

Action – Consider running a data workshop with departmental managers who can share how better sharing of data could improve what they can deliver for customers.

Let’s champion data together

Every day my Civica colleagues and I are speaking with professionals that share similar data challenges and we’re helping them find ways to overcome them. For example, one Midlands Local Authority, whose transformation leader is also a data champion, is now on the road to creating the business case to enable them to utilise their data – and the focus is to enable real change for the betterment of their citizens.

Would you like your organisation to better harness data? There is so much we can all learn from sharing our problems and successes, so I’m starting to build a network of like-minded professionals who might like to meet-up online and perhaps in person when circumstances allow. If you’re interested in being involved then please get in touch