2021 was all about developing our Data Strategy. Strategies are all well and good, but there’s a reason there’s a saying about them becoming nothing more than a dusty and expensive bookend! Keen to avoid getting the duster out, we have been working on our enterprise model to embed data and analytics across our organisation, moving it from strategy to implementation and beyond, turning our ambition for being data driven into reality.
There used to be a time we’d approach a strategy like we were creating the next War and Peace or compiling an Argos catalogue! Inking out all our thinking to set ourselves up for a year of delivery. Then efficiency drove us to favour a ‘plan on a page’, a concise synthesis of our priorities and approach.
Nowadays I prefer to think of my strategies as pop-up books, where the narrative becomes reality thanks to the team breathing life into the words on the page, and crafting our story by creating change, shaping culture, and delivering impact.
And that’s why 2022 promises to be exciting, because it’s all about our Data Strategy jumping off the page and into action.
A journey to becoming data driven is just that – a journey – it’s continual, not a one-off programme or set of activities. If we really want to realise the ambition of the Data Strategy, unlock the value data and analytics can bring, and maximise the skills we have to our fullest potential - then the strategy can’t be an adornment on a shelf or a document within the virtual insight library. That’s why we have stopped thinking about our approach to data and analytics as a set of products, projects and deliverables and instead as new ways of working, habits, and behaviours that we want everyone to adopt because they see the value – like that pop-up book that is brought to life, people are immersed in it, surprised by it and it's engrained in our memories.
Strategies are ultimately about choice, and in our Data Strategy we have chosen our priorities; Purpose, Process, People and Potential – the four pillars of data on which we want to focus and shaping how we want to work. Within those pillars is a full set of interconnected choices that make it easy for everyone to get behind because they are the key things that will enable us to produce results and deliver Everyone’s Essex organisational strategy.
- Purpose – We connect data and collaborate to improve outcomes
Organisational boundaries can sometimes get in the way of providing seamless, cost-effective services. The Data Strategy will help us work with partners to join up services where it makes sense to do so and to share data, learning and expertise. This collaborative approach and shared insight will help us maintain high quality services that enhance quality of life.
- Process: We address the cause not the symptoms
A journey towards excellence in service delivery is never finished, and we will continue to improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of our services. The Data Strategy will build a strong foundation and sustainable future that provides everyone access to rich insight from data, so we are insight and evidence led.
- People: We connect to build capability and capacity
We don’t have all the answers when it comes to tackling complex, open-ended, ‘wicked’ issues and we need to be innovative and capable of finding creative solutions. We must remain reflective and be open to continuous learning and development. That means we must invest in our people and build time into our joint working to have the capacity to do the new thinking that is called for – being open minded and diverse, supporting each other to fulfil our potential.
- Potential: We foster a culture that turns insight into action
We will sustain and embed core ingredients that have been shown to drive excellence in service delivery, these include - quality of leadership and culture, an openness to learning and improvement, high levels of accountability, an engaged and motivated workforce and effective blending of operational expertise, data and user insight to make decisions.
Our priorities are forward-looking and action-oriented and focus attention on the handful of choices that matter most to Essex County Council's success over the next few years. We’ve tried to maintain a healthy balance between focusing on the most critical priorities, addressing our vulnerabilities and maximising opportunities to innovate.
We believe that a good strategy is a business strategy infused with data (not the other way round) and a successful strategy is one that is kept alive, agile and grows as the organisation evolves. Strategy favours complexity, but executing it requires simplicity. Put simply, data is everyone’s business and as such our enterprise approach will align everyone’s goals to harness data and achieve the organisation’s outcomes.
We’ll keep you updated over the coming year on how our data and analytics pop-up book is evolving and helping the organisation deliver its goals.