Why Australian councils are embracing business intelligence

It’s imperative that local government adopt tools to help them sift through the increasing pools of data, writes Ben Cowling.

The sheer amount of data in government is staggering. Research suggests that more data has been created in the last two years than in the history of mankind. By 2020, 1.7 megabytes of new information will be created every second for every human being on the planet.

As data generation takes place, the public’s demand for information will continue to grow. Therefore it’s imperative that councils implement tools to help them access and sift through the vast pools of data. While big data and analytics may still be gaining prominence, councils across Australia and New Zealand need to invest in and focus on business intelligence.

Ben Cowling

1. Providing a basis for deploying new technologies

In the next few years, big data, AI and analytics will be an area of focus for most public sector organisations. AI in analytics will also gain prominence as new technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality, and machine learning are set to be a part of the digital transformation strategies of innovative councils. Data integrity will be a priority for implementing these new technologies, and BI will play an important role in establishing data integrity.

2. Data-driven decisions

BI tools enable councils to analyse data for more informed decision making. The data can help councils set priorities and make better choices when planning initiatives to deliver desired outcomes. Getting data out of spreadsheets and into a system reduces the risk of incorrect information. Using BI can help decision makers drill down to specific data and distribute it easily between key personnel, helping to improve internal processes and accelerate data-driven decisions.

3. Identifying and eliminating inefficiencies

BI can also help councils understand the success or failure of current processes by offering a plethora of information. BI provides decision makers with evidence on what is and isn’t working well, thereby giving them the ability to eliminate ineffective processes.

4. Improve employee performance, outcomes

Employees will be able to more easily identify insights they can take action on, instead of sifting through large amounts of data in order to figure out what’s occurring in their organisations. Decisions driven by real-time data shift employees’ focus from execution to strategy, which leads to improved performance and outcomes.

5. Customer intelligence

BI offers councils the tools to analyse the customer data they capture. This can inform the development and delivery of more tailored, responsive services for citizens which in turn helps local government meet and exceed contemporary expectations.

6. Provide a mobile platform

The ability to consolidate data into one platform is a key advantage of BI. Councils can opt for a solution that provides access to financial and non-financial data from different areas of the business, such as human resources, communications, finance, and assets. Having this information on mobile devices allows council executives to make informed decisions quickly. Local governments report that mobile access to information is especially helpful during council meetings as it provides up-to-date data on status of projects, budgets and key performance indicators.

7. Data convergence

BI enables organisations to converge data into a single dashboard that can be accessed by decision-makers and other strategic employees. This can help in monitoring and identifying issues and evaluate options that will deliver the best outcomes based on council priorities.

According to Gartner, the next steps for BI are analytical queries that will be generated via search, natural language processing or the likes of Alexa, Siri and other voice assistants. Gartner predicts that by 2020, 50 per cent of queries will come from voice assistants.

As analytics evolve, technology platforms will become easier to operate. Therefore, organisations will fewer ‘technical’ people to use them. However, it will be crucial to invest in employees who possess strategic thinking to extract the best of BI solutions.

Additionally, focusing on data will help organisations gain a competitive advantage and enable them to provide a better experience for citizens and to make more informed decisions.

Ben Cowling is managing director for local and state government solutions at Civica International.

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One thought on “Why Australian councils are embracing business intelligence

  1. Ben, our Australasian LG Performance Excellence Program which is the largest ever benchmarking of local government across Australia and NZ (covering 165 councils) assists councils utilise and leverage a lot of the data they already have from their core systems, allowing them individual and comparative insights at many levels. We are measuring the size, shape, unique of all local government and it is encouraging to see a shift in the associated professional careers of practitioners along this journey to greater insight. Councils now have dedicated roles to enable the leveraging of data so we are building a new generation of talent within the sector in complement to all other initiatives. Its very exciting.

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