Developing Information as a True Asset in Local Authorities
Information which is valued as an asset gives an organisation the ability to make the right decisions, at the right time based on accurate, reliable information. Unlike other resources, it does not reduce when used and can increase in value when shared. For councils which are driving ahead and transforming, the right information becomes even more valuable.
Castlerigg has recently supported East Renfrewshire and Renfrewshire Councils in developing a new approach to Information. Both organisations are finding they in unprecdented times where a variety of drivers for change are compelling them to ask themselves new questions to which different information is required to respond. Both are driving an ambitious transformation agenda to make their workforce agile, drive a 'digital by design' service design agenda and ensure all services can demonstrate how they contribute to achieving community planning outcomes.
Creating information, which is a real asset, relies on the combination of processes, activities, technologies, and people to capture raw, quality data and convert this into useable information that can then be acted upon. ‘Data’ and ‘information’ are often talked about as if they mean much the same thing. ‘Knowledge’ too can also be used interchangeably with ‘information’. However the terms do have precise and distinct meanings as this diagram illustrates:
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The quality, reliability and access to good information is critical to councils’ decision making and organisational effectiveness at all levels – strategically, managerially and operationally. At present the councils are not always best served by information in this respect. Moving forward the building blocks of an information culture will be:
Knowing their requirements: a better understanding of their strategic, management and operational information requirements
Improving their information quality: improving accuracy, access, analysis, and tailoring to our needs
Having more information, but less data: that meets the acknowledged needs of Customers, Staff, Members, Partners
Creating timely and reliable information: On demand and reliably there when its needed most
Improving their information management: processes which support optimum information processing, storage and control
Driving an information governance culture: liberating information to support delivery. Respecting, but not being unduly constrained by, organisational boundaries. Driving service integration (e.g. Health and Social Care) by putting in place the governance, standards, principles and protocols to share the right information, efficiently, to support better service outcomes
Having clear accountabilities: understanding information governance responsibilities at all levels of the councils
Having well designed technology: systems which are continually assessed in terms of their ‘fitness for purpose’
Creating good evidence: providing the right information to drive improvement and innovation
Having the right business capability: to define information requirements and specify solutions
Enabling leadership: Having leaders who rightly demand evidence to direct and implement change
As part of this exercise Castlerigg have defined the core strategic information requirements of a modern council:
The information as an asset strategy defines a blueprint for change and the required capability each council needs to deliver its vision and objectives. This includes:
- A new information architecture
- A new 'fitness for purpose' technology assessment approach to be taken forward by their new ICT business relationship managers
- A new information governance approach aligned to its ambitions to drive service integration and liberate information
- Strong, enabling leadership from the Corporate Management Team to drive a new information culture and challenge the status quo in terms of quality, access, processing and requirements for information