Executive summary

East Riding of Yorkshire Council began a transformative data strategy to address poor data quality and underutilisation. A 14-month project, supported by external specialists, uncovered significant data challenges like excessive off-system spreadsheets indicating severe data issues. The council initiated proof-of-concept projects in children’s and adult social care to understand data from various sources, highlighting low data maturity and prompting the adoption of Azure for data warehousing. 

Focusing on use case-driven initiatives, the Revenues and Benefits department sought a single view of debt but recognised the need to integrate data first to avoid the common pitfall of system purchases without solving data problems. A 12-week discovery phase reviewed five major debt processes, revealing inefficiencies and the interconnectedness of debt with issues like vulnerability and complexity. 

The discovery phase led to an outline business case showing potential returns from improved debt recovery and process automation. This initiated discussions on redesigning the debt recovery service to be more customer-centric, including online payment options. 

The council’s approach emphasised data’s critical role in organisational change, using targeted projects to build momentum and demonstrate data’s value. This strategy ensures system investments are based on a solid understanding of data and processes, leading to sustainable solutions. 

Read the full story below, and read about our work at East Riding of Yorkshire Council as an example.

Finding a single view of debt is important for councils, but how do you get started? East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s story

East Riding of Yorkshire Council embarked on a transformative data strategy journey a couple of years ago, recognising the poor quality and underutilisation of their data. To tackle these issues, it embarked on a project with the support of external consultants, initially planned for six-months and extended to fourteen months due to the extensive data challenges uncovered. 

One significant revelation was the high number of off-system spreadsheets, signalling severe data quality, integrity, and security issues. This led the council to initiate a proof-of-concept project initially, with children’s and adult social care, focusing on understanding data from various sources and evaluating indicators of vulnerability and complexity. These efforts highlighted the council’s low data maturity and the need for cloud-based solutions, prompting the adoption of Azure for data warehousing. 

The council decided to address its data issues through targeted, use case-driven initiatives. One pressing need was a single view of debt, driven by the Revenues and Benefits (Revs and Bens) department, which was eager to purchase a dedicated system. However, the service recognised the importance of understanding and integrating data before making any investments in systems. This approach aimed to prevent the common pitfall of buying systems without addressing underlying data problems. 

To move forward, the council conducted a 12-week focused discovery phase, engaging external expertise due to their resources. This phase was crucial in making the services involved aware of the scope and timeline, thereby securing their cooperation. The discovery work involved reviewing five major debt processes: Council tax, business rates, housing benefit overpayments, residential social care debt, and housing rent debt. These areas represented tens of millions of pounds in debt, indicating substantial potential for return on investment through improved debt recovery. 

During the discovery phase, significant inefficiencies and manual interventions in back-office processes, even those automated, were identified. The council also realised the interconnectedness of debt with other issues like adult vulnerability and complexity. This understanding underscored that merely purchasing a debt system would not address the broader data and process challenges. 

The discovery work culminated in an outline business case, demonstrating potential returns from better debt recovery and process automation. This led to discussions about redesigning the entire debt recovery service to be more customer-centric. For instance, enabling online payments for missed payments would streamline processes and improve customer experience. 

The council’s approach highlighted the critical role of data in driving organisational change. By starting with specific, manageable projects and demonstrating tangible benefits, they aimed to shift the organisation’s culture towards valuing and utilising data effectively. The journey has highlighted that data work is not an isolated task but an enabler of broader transformational change. 

Despite the progress, the council acknowledged the ongoing challenges in fostering a data-centric mindset. The key takeaway from East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s experience is that initiating change through targeted, impactful projects can build momentum and illustrate the value of data in achieving organisational goals. This approach ensures that investments in systems are grounded in a solid understanding of data and processes, ultimately leading to more sustainable and effective solutions. 

This content featured in our virtual round table on digital transformation.

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