George Parapadakis, Strategy Director at Alfresco, writes on why the government needs to embrace challenges around data analytics to improve communication, decision-making and reduce operational costs…

Analytics projects are expensive and difficult. There are two fundamental requirements for undertaking data analytics projects: clean, integrated, meaningful data, and skilled resources in the form of specialist data scientists.

In recent years, we have seen industries take huge leaps of faith, pouring significant investment into analytical projects with mixed results. Trying to make sense of bad quality data that is disjointed, siloed and filled with redundant and obsolete information can, at best, create huge delays in getting meaningful results or, at worst, drive wrong decisions through misleading correlations and trends.

In most instances, organisations don’t know what value they will get from analytics until the analysis is actually done. This makes it extremely difficult to construct a business case for investing in analytics projects in advance.

Businesses and governmental institutions, therefore, need to become far more strategic in the way they approach the collection, management and use of data, in order to drive efficiencies, achieve a high level of regulatory compliance and improve customer service.

A new focus on shared data driving day-to-day business operations would provide numerous opportunities for the UK government

Robust data infrastructure is key to digital transformation, so a fundamental step for businesses and government agencies has to be building a strong framework for content, process, and data management.

Looking at the government, data is at the heart of everything it does. Whether it’s in the form of citizen services such as pensions, benefits, tax, Homeland Security, or for the internal corporate working of various departments and agencies.

Historically, government data has been managed in isolated departmental silos. A new focus on shared data driving day-to-day business operations would provide numerous opportunities for the UK government in the form of allowing inter-departmental services and decision-making to be automated, significantly reducing operational costs, providing self-service capabilities to citizens, reducing the requirement for operational headcount, and improving quality of service by removing unnecessary frustration and delays.

Encouraging innovation

Technology is driving innovation and digital transformation in every sector, but governments have been slow to take advantage of the free resources, particularly open-source ones, towards educating business users inside government, as to the ease and speed with which processes can be designed and run on modern architectures and cloud-based infrastructure.

Regulation can often stifle digital development in government, but that risk exists in every regulated industry

While long-term commitments to large software vendors, such as Microsoft, can provide cost-saving discounts that alleviate some of a government’s reduced budgets, it inevitably ties internal projects and solutions to technologies that are not conducive to rapid innovation.

Government needs to take an example from other sectors, such as FinTech. In this instance, large banks are working closely with smaller SME vendors, whose fast advancing technology and agile methodologies can accelerate innovation, allowing them to adopt ‘Design Thinking’ and ‘Platform Thinking’ philosophies to drive digital transformation at a much faster pace than their internal IT legacy allows them.

Regulatory measures

Inevitably regulation can often stifle digital development in government, but that risk exists in every regulated industry. Government’s response to the measures determines whether they will be allowed to create inertia, or if they are used as a catalyst for radical transformation. ‘Dumbing down’ the requirements to accommodate new regulation into existing infrastructure, software contracts, and manual workarounds will inevitably slow down new developments and innovation.

Embracing the challenge on the other hand, and opening the market for vendors with much more creative (and potentially more cost-effective) solutions, will allow the government to directly address the root issues that the regulations seek to de-risk, rather than just simply patching up the symptoms.