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  • By Michael de Andrade, MD, EnterpriseWorx

Using business intelligence to improve service delivery

Public sector executives are struggling with operational inefficiency while under pressure to improve service delivery to citizens. Business Intelligence (BI) can play a vital role in establishing, analysing and forecasting levels of spending, resource utilisation and service usage patterns so as to feed back information into decision processes for service improvement.

BI is based on using the information held by the administration – be it central, provincial or local government – to improve performance. Well-defined information searching and reporting systems will lead to a more efficient, business-like public sector.

Data does not automatically lead to intelligence, however, nor does technology. It’s important to develop an effective data management framework to deliver high quality, accurate and timely information and to improve the data shared between public sector organisations and their partners.

However, too many administrators still rely on planning and budgeting processes based on the circulation of marked-up spreadsheets and reports. This haphazard data collection results in flawed intelligence that can lead to incorrect conclusions and decisions that are way off the mark. What is needed is accurate record-keeping and sophisticated analysis and reporting of activities.

Ensuring data integrity is the first step. This involves putting the necessary information technology structures and rules in place to make sure that the company’s data is integrated, consistent and accurate. Consolidating disparate data sources and centralising data management is the only way to provide decision makers with ‘a single version of the truth’.

With complete and accurate data it becomes possible to formulate predictions and make well-informed decisions. A BI model can then be created to report on key performance indicators as defined in the business plan and ensure that delivery matches output targets within a small, defined variance. This enables executives to have a clear view of the performance of their department or of individual employees.

One area where BI can have an enormous impact is in the monitoring of call centres and the analysis of vast amounts of call centre data. The classic case study in this regard is that of New York City. In March 2003, under the leadership of mayor Michael R Bloomberg, NYC launched an ambitious customer service centre, designed to give citizens one point of contact with the city administration.

The NYC 311 customer service centre focused on providing the public with quick, easy access to all city services and helping agencies improve service delivery by enabling them to manage their workload efficiently.

The city used data from the call centre along with BI technologies to provide increased visibility into its operations. It deployed a BI tool which was able to compile data on all calls received, services selected, tickets opened and type of requests, and capture robust datasets on all activities.

This is but one example of how BI strategies, technologies and solutions within the public sector lead to better business outcomes. Through collecting and analysing data, BI creates detailed reports that make valuable system analysis possible.

Making sure information is of high quality, accessible and accurate is vital to measuring performance across the organisation. Data mining, reporting and analytics then come into play for accessing timely information and spotting trends so as to improve decision making.

Such analyses can deliver operational efficiencies and performance improvements, fostering strategic decision making and lowering the cost of service delivery.

BI is the cornerstone of decision making based on facts rather than perceptions. With BI investment, government departments and other public sector organisations can make better-informed decisions. They can ensure that the public sector meets its key performance indicators (KPIs), and manages its limited resources well – whether it’s a case of sending out bills on time or introducing new services to meet citizens’ needs.