Excellence in Government Analytics Awards

I’ve written a lot of blogs here, but I’m particularly honoured to write this one to celebrate winning the Sir Ian Diamond Award for Excellence in Government Analytics only yesterday.

Sir Ian Diamond is the National Statistician for the UK – and the principal adviser on official statistics to the UK statistics authority.  The award itself is for an individual that has displayed excellence in championing, promoting or growing the Analysis Function. This could be by highlighting analysis across government, developing our people, inspiring analysts, or delivering better outcomes for the citizen”.

It would be amiss of me not to begin by lavishing gratitude on all the people in the outstanding Data and Analytics team here at Essex County Council and the wider network of public sector analysts and academics that have given me unlimited ammunition (like a computer game cheat code) to talk about. This award after all is essentially for ‘talking about data and analytics’, which is something I LOVE to do.

When I first started in local government analytics 15 years ago, I would always look for best practice, innovative, and inspirational data use in places like academia, or private sector market leads. (Everyone’s first exposure to a supervised machine learning algorithm is always a telecommunications churn model!)

In the last decade this best practice analytics infiltrated central government, and I found my inspiration coming from organisations like the Home Office, Department for Health and Social Care, Office for National Statistics, LGA (and more recently the GDS Data Science Campus).  These were real world applications of analytics for public good.  Within these organisations (and many others) they had attracted the very best minds in the field of analytics to bring more academic level rigour to public service. (Often working in conjunction with academic institutes for added credence)

The most pleasing thing for me is that this filtered down further into local government analytics teams.  And now I take inspiration from the people who I’ve shared desks with, shared drinks with, and shared 15 years with. In the many times I’ve talked about data and analytics this year (and believe me there’s been so much that for six weeks I actually lost my voice) I’ve almost exclusively been talking about work from our own Essex County Council Data and Analytics team. And you can read about some of this fantastic work through our previous blogs right here!

I’d also like to thank Nicola Mallett (Head of Profession Data and Analytics, ECC) for nominating me (and generally giving me license to talk about data and analytics all the time). Being nominated by your colleagues is the greatest recognition, and I will certainly make the time and effort to do likewise with the work of the team, elevating it to the audience it deserves.

Beyond the nomination, being shortlisted was amazing and I felt in a small sense that I was representing the local public sector and the amazing work they produce. Winning was just overwhelming – particularly given the outstanding work from other shortlisted candidates!  For those that remember 2002’s Pop Idol, I pulled the same face of genuine surprise that Will Young made after defeating Gareth Gates (and this is probably the only time that I can legitimately compare myself to someone Young)

So what next in 2022 for the Data & Analytics team?

My role has been to help embed data and analytics throughout our local public sector partnership.  Part of that has been to take a facilitator role in building skill sets. Recently in conversation with managers in the team we decided that we don’t want to build specific skills, rather we want to shape careers in analytics and data science. Preferably public sector analytics, but that is the decision we hope our staff make if we can help facilitate some continued professional development.

A few weeks ago I decided (in my head at least) that in 2022 I was no longer going to say “we are a highly data savvy local public sector analytics team”, as I’m moving the goalposts ever so slightly and aiming for us to be regarded nationally as “a highly savvy analytics team” full stop.

Mostly this just involves finessing a few elements of our data project lifecycle to ensure our work is of the highest quality it can be from start to finish. This will enable us to share and showcase more of our work (in more detail) to our fellow public sector organisations that may have a shared interest. I’m really looking forward to doing so!

And as a final piece of advice for anyone that is trying to make the wonderful world of data and analytics engaging to the masses… for anything in the world of data science, there is ALWAYS a sports analogy (and if you can’t find one, surround yourself with great teammates who will find one for you)


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