Making public sector decisions more evidence-based
Basing decisions on evidence – using quantitative data alongside qualitative research – is fundamental to designing effective services, identifying the biggest opportunities for innovation and change, and making the right choices. But how should the public sector approach this?
One answer to this question is to leverage the data collected by public sector organisations and enrich it with user and other research to help individuals, teams and organisations improve their understanding of the landscape that a policy is addressing. Evidence-based decision-making prioritises understanding, testing, shaping and measuring how services deliver on policy intent to make choices that maximise their effectiveness.
An evidence-based approach can realise greater efficiencies
Data is hugely valuable in identifying and achieving efficiencies. It helps deliver better citizen experiences and encourages product owners to seek insights, test hypotheses and create opportunities for innovation.
In our experience, unlocking the value of existing data also helps us anticipate emerging and future needs and continue to improve existing services.
For example, having worked with the Department for Transport to redevelop the Blue Badge digital service based on user and other research, the Valtech team has continued to improve the service based on analytics and user research. The resulting insight-driven improvements have continually enhanced the service, enabling digital take-up to steadily increase to the current 83%.
Leveraging data for evidence-based decision-making
Data can be used alongside users and other research sources, and three key areas in particular can help organisations leverage data in their evidence-based decision-making.
Implementing data infrastructure goes beyond just having data accessible in the cloud to ensure it is timely and can be easily interrogated by all for use in decision-making. Processing and formatting data and providing APIs to make it portable is crucial. Giving departments permission to (securely) share data and invest in tools for integration, analysis, visualisation, discovery, and surfacing is also an essential part of good infrastructure.
Initiatives like the Universal Credit Data Works project, which we developed for DWP Digital, offer analysts and staff timely, accurate and transparent data. It helps them to support claimants, gather insights to feed into policymaking, and respond to parliamentary questions.
Data usability and data sharing
Building trust and partnerships between data holders fosters data usability and data sharing so there can be open and timely exchanges of data, building the evidence base for decision-makers across government.
Making data usable by others depends on documenting data with definitions, metadata and details of its provenance. Working to agreed standards means it can be used by the broadest possible audience, not just data professionals, maximising the benefits it delivers.
Valtech partnered with Ofgem to transform the energy regulator’s use of data. Ofgem works with a broad range of stakeholders and data providers. Valtech helped by creating a digital service to manage data across the energy system, using common methods and standards to validate, organise and secure store data. The Data Hub has become the single source of truth for regulatory users.
People, skills and data culture
Increasing the use of data for evidence-based decision-making also relies on changing the people, skills and data culture within departments. Increasing the understanding of data, analytics and analysis tools will help civil servants to embrace evidence as the currency of decision-making.
The public sector needs to attract and retain data talent and promote existing ‘data and evidence exemplars’ where it is already delivering benefits. One of the main ways in which the Ofgem Data Hub project initiated change was by building a ‘coalition of change’ to highlight where teams had adopted new ways of working and delivered value for platform users.
Exploring evidence-based decision-making
There is clearly a great deal of potential that can be realised, but it can sometimes be difficult to know how to harness it and where to start. If you’re curious or passionate about evidence-based decision-making and how it can be implemented, join the Valtech team at our Discussion Table at the Government Transformation Summit on November 22nd. We’re looking forward to hearing experiences from around the public sector and will be posting questions such as:
- What forms of data would help you most in making better decisions?
- How can you get access to it?
- Does your organisation already use evidence to make decisions?
- What can be done to make it more widespread?
- What barriers do you face when trying to make evidence-based decisions? How have teams or departments solved similar challenges?
- Have you used data from other departments or services to test ideas, gain insights and make evidence-based decisions?
- How can we use evidence-based decisions to improve policy?
Valtech has helped many government departments and public sector organisations design, deliver and manage effective, award-winning digital services. We’d be delighted to welcome you to the Discussion Table on November 22nd at the GovX Transformation Summit.