And boy our public sector and healthcare colleagues around the world are facing a significant suite of challenges. Real term cuts combined with an increase in complex demand that pushes capacity and capability to the limit. It also shines a light on prioritisation and risk management – who and what do we focus on – can’t do everything right? It pushes an organisation into a reactive spin and many become stuck in a cycle of firefighting, and stop the important proactive and preventative work. This is not sustainable. Public outcomes suffer, colleagues in the service suffer – improvement slows or stops.
However; history shows us that some of the greatest adversity may seem insurmountable, but the obstacles become a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. What stands in the way is the way. It is how we respond to obstacles is what defines us. Obstacles don’t inhibit success, they create it. A mindset thing.
So, I took that approach when I worked at Avon and Somerset Police. I realised that data and analytics was the golden thread to improving a police force that was going backwards. However; it was not just the technology that was important – a juxtaposition of factors need to come together to make a successful transformation. You need to create a blueprint, a secret sauce that excites and disrupts traditional thinking. That is what I did. I am now going to share it.
Create some wow
Having travelled a good chunk of the world talking to customers and analytics aficionados I always get asked how to ‘land’ analytics in an organisation. It is probably the most frequented question I get. I often reply with a question “do you think that data and analytics are exciting”? Guess what – very few hands or voices emerge from the crowd. But it is. If you take the approach to ‘tin open’ your organisation and shine a light on every bit of your people, process and systems, it gives away its secrets easily. The opportunities reveal themselves on a plate. If you build some simple apps to highlight the insight and opportunities, people get excited. Keep it coming. Don’t stop – make it a conveyor belt of enticement into what could change or be different. Get your chiefs excited. Get your colleagues excited. Get the front-line operations excited. Analytics should be like a fine dining tasting menu in the initial stages! Don’t be afraid to experiment; be empowered and push the boundaries.
Connect to the ‘pain-points’
You need to understand the business. Spend time working out the line-of-sight from the strategic objectives through to the front-line operations. What is blocking delivery? What is working well? Where are the biggest challenges and opportunities? Look through a people, process and system lens. Talk to people – find out the issues are and what they really need to do a better job. Once you have a good grip on this, point the analytics at it. Explore. Be bold. Focus on the areas that will make the biggest difference and are the easiest to achieve – the low-lying fruit. Keep it simple. You need to deliver things quickly to onboard people. Don’t be swayed into creating anything complicated.
It’s all about the leadership
Yes, everyone is a leader, but there is a reason why you have a chief. They can inspire and create change – transform cultures and outcomes. You need your chief to own and drive a data driven culture. Data and analytics needs to be viewed as a critical asset – a strategic imperative. They need to empower the organisation to be confident in using data – drive a data literate approach from the board to the front-line. Create the highest ambition, strategy and roadmap for delivering an analytics transformation.
Of course, the chief and wider team may not ‘get’ or come pre-programmed with this vision. You need to inspire them. The penny will drop when you show them a sweetshop of opportunity. Be confident and don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness afterwards!
Total solution approach
Traditionally analytics has been pointed towards the privileged few, the preserve of the analyst or manager. Knowledge is power, right? Well, things have changed. The clever innovative leaders have realised that the closer you bring analytics to the front line (at point of delivery), the greater the benefits will be (hard and soft). Industrialise and democratise your analytics across every bit of your business.
Turn every stone and get both enabling and operational departments engaged. And that engagement is important. Don’t ‘do’ the analytics for your colleagues – they should own it. Empower them to design what they need and how they want to see it. Find out what they need to do their jobs better. You also need to build role specific applications e.g. if you are a ward manager, you have a dedicated app to support you. And; make sure that the analytics link with key tasking and governance processes – integrate with the organisation’s rhythm.
How do you go about delivering a total analytics approach – how can we apply it to everything? Use an agile methodology and deliver benefits quickly back to the business. It also helps to prioritise the biggest opportunities too. When I was rolling out the analytics in Avon and Somerset Police, I would aim for the team to deliver an app every couple of weeks. The roadmap stretched 12-18 months to cover most of the business.
Augmenting traditional processes and getting up the Business Intelligence Curve
The digital revolution has brought an ever-increasing number of disparate unconnected digital data sources – in some hospitals it could stretch to hundreds of different systems. Folk in the public sector are taking significant amounts of time interrogating, assimilating and presenting the data to make informed decisions. Many just typically assimilate descriptive information and have little skill or time to add value beyond data churning.
One of the largest benefits of an analytics deployment is the combination of data sets that allow more advanced analytics to be applied. This can then be used augment traditional processes. A good example is where traditionally a police officer or analyst might spend hours trying to build a victim profile, whereas with modern technology, this process can be augmented to seconds. When augmentation is applied at scale it can present significant benefits and return on investment.
Imagine trying to profile 600,000 people, understand their vulnerability risk – every day. This is just not possible using traditional approaches. Advanced analytics e.g. predictive modelling should be on the roadmap of every public-sector organisation.
Augmenting research in Avon and Somerset Police has saved on average 3.5 hours per week per officer. 1000 users would equate to 182,000 hours or £2.5m saved. Hunt down every opportunity to augment a process and free up time for your colleagues. They will love you for it too!
Yep, it had to come. Throughout the blueprint there must be a clear and precise view on the expected outcomes. Whatever you do has to add value and deliver return on investment. Outcomes come in many forms and you need to connect the analytics to public outcomes being delivered. You also need to identify internally focused outcomes too such as staff wellbeing. If you get it right, you should be seeing significant improvements in efficiency and effectiveness. Staff productivity and quality should improve and the organisation will move from a position of hindsight to foresight. For me, knowing that nearly two thirds of Avon and Somerset Police said they were better informed, nearly sixty percent said they were more effective confirmed how important a good blueprint is. So, being in a privileged position to share this experience and support customers make a difference keeps me happy. I love analytics – it is exciting, it is the new rock ‘n’ roll. I love my job.