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Suffolk authorities launch data analytics operation


Mark Say Managing Editor

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A group of public sector organisations in Suffolk have launched a joint data analytics initiative.

The Suffolk Office of Data Analytics (SODA) has been set up by the county council, seven district and borough councils, Suffolk Constabulary and two clinical commissioning groups, with funding of £200,000 for each of the next two years.

SODA manager Michaela Breilmann told UKAuthority it has emerged from earlier work funded by money from the Transformation Challenge Award (TCA) to support collaboration between public bodies in the county. This included a data and insight workstream which, when the initial programme came to end, provided the momentum to obtain new funding from the local organisations.

It was formally established in June and is working as a virtual operation with no physical office. There are also understandings that some employees of the partner organisations will have time to work on SODA activities.

Breilmann said its early work has carried over some of the projects from the earlier programme, on issues such as special educational needs and forecasting of business rates, and set up processes around governance and decision-making on which projects should go into the pipeline.

“We’re going to do as much analysis and evidence building as we can,” she said. “Over the past two years we were missing the information governance and IT systems, which were not part of the TCA remit.

“There were existing groups like information governance boards and the ICT teams who we thought would be the enablers for these things, but it proved to be optimistic to expect them to do these things alongside their day jobs. So we’re now trying to tackle them as part of SODA.”

Governance framework

This is behind an effort to create an information governance framework that she hopes will apply beyond the SODA partners to groups such as voluntary organisations.

An audit of the available IT systems is taking place to establish where there might be a need for investment, and there are plans for a data sharing portal for the partner organisations.

The organisations are also looking at the issues on which there could be a case to pull together data. Breillman said that while decisions are still to be made there has been a strong interest in using data to examine domestic abuse.

“We need to make sure that, given there are multiple partners, that the whole system benefits and that it is something that should be tackled as a system approach rather than by an individual organisation.”

She added that there could be some outputs from the early work towards the end of the year.

The creation of SODA reflects the growing interest in regional data analytics groups to support public services. Teams have been created for London and the West Midlands Combined Authority, and Worcestershire has an operation that has highlighted the need for more resource sharing between public authorities in the county.

Image by justgrimes, CC BY-SA 2.0 through flickr



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