This post was written by our Director, Public Sector Transformation, Shirley Berry.
Data is critical for public sector organisations. Accurate data is used to make informed decisions on everything from protecting the public and bringing people to justice, to safeguarding vulnerable people and identifying the right care and treatment for patients.
If you’re working in the public sector, your organisation’s strategy, policies and processes will be informed by data. And if you work in an operational role, you’ll rely on accurate data sources – patient data, crime figures, financial and employee data and so on – to inform the decisions you make every day. So, data will already shape much of what you do.
This huge reliance on data means it’s vital that sources are as accurate as possible, so the decisions you make are soundly based – or in the case of AI, that outcomes are accurately predicted. There are consequences otherwise and you’re lucky if the impact of poor data quality is as small as a little wasted time, money or resource, or a missed KPI. In the most extreme cases the results can be catastrophic, particularly in the context of areas such as safeguarding, patient treatment and dangerous offenders.
Given the risks associated with poor data, I’m left wondering why we’re not all talking more about data sources. Everybody working in a public sector organisation needs to understand why data accuracy is important and the individual role they can play in making sure it’s collected, managed and used with the utmost care – and I’m not talking about GDPR, which is perhaps the focus of another blog.
People have lots to say when it comes to procuring a new piece of kit. But the investment in new, functionally rich software, a shiny piece of tech or whizz-bang AI tool will be wasted if the quality of data isn’t what it needs to be and the only way to achieve this is to give those responsible for inputting, collating, managing and using that data, the skills they need in their respective roles.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard software or technology described as ‘intuitive’, meaning the manufacturers and/or purchasers are convinced there’s no need to train those inputting and using the data. But intuitive for whom? And in what context? We all know that those working in similar roles don’t necessarily have the same level of skills, nor do we all learn at the same pace. Sometimes people need to repeat something several times before it becomes second nature and that’s fine, but it does need training.
The truth is most organisations find a way to muddle through when it comes to training to support the roll out of new technology of software systems but this means they never get the full return on investment they anticipated. With the right learning interventions in place, software providers can land their products more seamlessly. Plus, public sector clients can realise the benefits much quicker and their workforce will feel well prepared and supported, rather than frazzled and at their wits’ end.
So what’s the solution? My advice is to bring your people on the journey with you, so they understand the importance of data accuracy in the context of their role. This means creating a culture where there’s an understanding of the importance of data accuracy and the consequences of getting it wrong. It’s not a blame game, it’s about helping them to do their jobs better, protecting them from the potential consequences and in return, reducing the risks to your organisation and the people you serve.
Make sure, you understand the outcomes you’re seeking because these will determine the information you need to input – and what / how to train employees to achieve this accurately. Also, decide how you’re going to analyse the data and what the decision-making process will look like, using the outputs.
Remember in the real world there’s workforce churn to consider, new starters, temporary and agency staff, and people who will inevitably require refresher training from time to time, so build this into your training plan.
Don’t be put off by preconceived ideas about classroom or train the trainer methods because technology-driven learning works really well for this. It helps users to learn quickly and minimises the impact of training on business-as-usual activities.
But above all, don’t wait until there’s a catastrophe before you consider training. As part of the procurement process, build in outcomes-focused training provision and ensure the content supports your data objectives from input to analysis.
It’s a bit like that swanky house in the country you’d build if you won the lottery. You wouldn’t construct the walls without having laid the foundations and created the ground floor; nor would you lay a beautiful parquet floor without first putting on the roof. So when it comes to data, see training on technology and software systems as part of the ground work and something you definitely can’t do without.
Contact Shirley to find out more – email@example.com
Or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org / 01273 091 301