Why do public sector data strategies often fail to deliver the results organisations are looking for?

In our experience, the difference between a winning data strategy and an under-preforming one is the quality of the conversations you have along the way.

From our work with clients and examples elsewhere, we have pinpointed five key areas where discussion and agreement within your organisation will drive success.

Here are five starter questions to get the conversation going in the right direction:

  1. What insight does our organisation need for success? Your organisation first needs a clear business strategy. A winning data strategy then starts with a conversation about the insight you need to achieve that business strategy. This insight may be real-time information about how your organisation deploys people day to day, or insight into your impact on people’s lives. Getting your leaders excited about what insights are possible with better data puts you on the right track.
  2. What is the right balance between data protection and data exploitation? Many public sector organisations are rightly concerned with protecting sensitive data, about anything from vulnerable customers to national infrastructure. But we need to understand what this means. An inconsistent understanding of how your organisation can make the most of data for the public good while keeping data protected can impede progress and reduce impact. Addressing the conversation head on, reaching an agreed position, and adapting your approach accordingly unlocks possibilities and helps get everyone onboard with your intentions.
  3. What information will make you better at your job? Starting conversations with all your people about the missing information that would turbocharge their productivity helps to both focus your data strategy and bring staff on board. These conversations drive curiosity about the potential benefits of better data and helps to uncover and fix data quality problems that get in the way of operational excellence.
  4. What is the value of your data assets to your organisation? Public sector organisations often struggle to invest enough to make the most of their data assets. This is usually because it is hard to get all the necessary stakeholders to understand the (actual and potential) value of data. Taking time to consider the true value of your data assets in monetary terms (for example, “How much would it cost to replace this data set?”, “How does this information save us money?”) can focus the mind on where available funds are best spent. People care for what they value most, and caring for your most valuable data assets can transform your organisation’s efficiency and effectiveness.
  5. How will we prevent siloes that stop progress? Organisational silos are a big barrier to data strategy success. Siloed organisations can drive us toward siloed services that meet individual needs but restrict data quality and interoperability. We need to create governance structures that break down data silos and siloed services. This includes working with leaders to help them understand how silos undermine progress towards better use of data and greater social impact.

Get in touch to explore how we can help you have these conversations to maximise the effectiveness of your data strategy.

Co-authored by Katharine Purser during her time as a Principal at Nous.

Connect with Nic Dillon on LinkedIn.

Check out our recent research, Delivering Data’s Promise, which delves further into the key factors that help make a data strategy a success in the public sector.